Blame years of evolutionary psychology.
Does it seem like every attractive man you meet is rude, selfish, and totally uninterested in the well-being of others? Well, science agrees with you.
A study out of Brunel University in London has found that bodily attractiveness and egalitarianism are negatively correlated in males. This means that attractive men are less likely to believe that all people deserve equal rights and opportunities.
Through detailed questionnaires, the 125 participants were judged on their selfishness and attitudes towards social inequality. The study also used a “dictator” game, to determine their willingness to share wealth with others. Using 3D rendering software, the bodies of those participants were then modeled and attractiveness was judged by generic factors, such as waist-to-chest ratio for men and waist-to-hip ratio for women.
Why don’t attractive men care about equality?
The researchers hypothesize that better-looking people care less about equality because they benefit from inequality.
From an evolutionary standpoint, attractiveness has been a marker of health and physical fitness. This would allow the male to have his choice of mate and pass on his genetics, regardless of his personality.
On the other hand, a less attractive man would have to rely on his personality to attract a mate. If we assume that nice people raise nice children and vice versa, then we would end up with selfish attractive men and selfless unattractive men.
Other studies have discussed that attractive males may have had more bargaining power, making them more valuable in business dealings and likely allowing them to rise to a higher social status.
If the man is gaining social advantages from his attractiveness, it is not in his interest to support equality. This means that attractive males are less likely to believe that resources should be distributed equally in social groups (since this would cause them to give up resources).
Interestingly, while the Brunel study showed that attractive men were less egalitarian, attractive women were not.
Why is this not true for women?
The researchers assume that this phenomenon does not occur in women because the ancestral woman would gain an advantage from egalitarianism. Women do not depend on sexual competition for social advantages, like the ancestral man.
The women depend on other women as a support system in motherhood and other duties. The building of a woman’s social circle often involves the use of empathy which is linked with egalitarianism, as another study suggests.
However, even though a woman is likely to score higher on egalitarianism, her peers may not perceive her as an egalitarian.
Women are judged unfairly for being attractive
The same study out of Brunel University also asked participants to judge others on their egalitarianism, noted as “perceived egalitarianism”. The results showed that both attractive men and women were perceived as less egalitarian.
Unfortunately for the attractive woman, even if her observed behavior indicates she is egalitarian, her peers may assume she is selfish. The study did not provide any hypothesized explanations for this result.
Consequences for today’s society
If attractive men tend to be more selfish and less egalitarian, should we boycott them?
Not necessarily. The Brunel University study only had 125 participants, most which were students at the university. The limited number of participants and lack of diversity in age, race, culture, and economic status definitely makes us question the validity of the conclusions.
In any case, the best course of action against bias is education. We must all be aware of our internal biases and prejudices, and work to evolve together for the betterment of society.