The Paris Review

What’s the Use of Beauty?

Édouard Manet. Woman Reading, 1880 or 1881. The Art Institute of Chicago, Mr. and Mrs. Lewis Larned Coburn Memorial Collection.

The halo effect is a type of cognitive bias in which your initial superficial assessment of a person influences your perception of their other, more ambiguous traits. In the name of cultural journalism, I conducted an informal experiment to test this. I posted five different photographs of myself to a website called Photofeeler, which people mostly use for their acting headshots, company photographs, and online dating profiles. Strangers vote on your attractiveness, trustworthiness, and intelligence, and, using a weighted algorithm, the website tells you the percentile you’re in compared with the rest of the people on the website so you can choose the best photograph. The photo of mine that was voted the most attractive—my fingers awkwardly crinkled around a wineglass on a terrasse—was the one in which I was voted smartest and most trustworthy. The photograph in which I was deemed ugliest—sitting in a cab—was the one in which I was voted dumbest and least trustworthy. In every photograph, my perceived attractiveness determined my perceived trustworthiness and intelligence, traits that, of course, are impossible for anyone to actually know from a picture.

The notion of the halo effect and the idea that “beauty is good”—meaning that we assume people who are prettier must also in 1972 by the psychologists Karen Dion, Ellen Berscheid, and Elaine Walster. They found that people almost uniformly believed that those who they found more attractive on the basis of three small photographs were also more generous and more stable and had better marriages, better jobs, and better families than less attractive people. A similar from just a few years ago found that people trust those they consider more attractive significantly more quickly than those they consider less attractive.

Stai leggendo un'anteprima, registrati per continuare a leggere.

Altro da The Paris Review

The Paris Review5 min letti
The Charming, Ridiculous Romance Comics of Ogden Whitney
The thing about being a woman is you always have to pretend to be interested in characters in books and movies to whom you don’t quite relate. I don’t relate 100 percent to men in suits, or men with guns, or men pining after women, or anguished male
The Paris Review6 min letti
Gail Scott’s Most Novel-Like Novel
Gail Scott. I’ve been gloriously wandering through Gail Scott’s Heroine for a month. I brought it with me to Norway where I created a temporary reading space in order to make my residency be something social. About twenty of us were seated in the bea
The Paris Review1 min letti
Harold Bloom, 1930–2019
Harold Bloom.(photo: Nancy Crampton) Harold Bloom, one of the most popular and controversial critics in American literature, died Monday at age eighty-nine. He was the recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship and the author of more than forty books, inclu