Francesca Donovan | Contributing Writer | Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Is Life Really Easier For Attractive Women?

Is Life Really Easier For Attractive Women?

The Debrief: In short, this is absolute bullshit.

A new study claims that life is easier for 'beautiful' women. The study, conducted by Chinese psychologists, was recently published in the Frontiers Journal of Neuroscience and has since been used to further the argument for people's innate 'beauty bias' which states we have a preoccupation and, indeed, a preference for attractive people. What the scientists actually did in the study to gain these results is a little complicated so here's a quick run down:

  • 21 male Chinese students were shown 300 photographs of Chinese women - these women were previously deemed either attractive or unattractive 
  • The men were then partnered up with a selection of the women in the photographs to play the Ultimatum Game, which is essentially a bargaining game based around splitting a sum of money between two people
  • The men's reaction times and brain responses were measured while playing the game with women from both the attractive and unattractive group
  • It transpired that the men responded more positively to the 'attractive' women... Or, in other words, men were more likely to accept bad deals from attractive women 

At this point, alarm bells start ringing. Loudly.

The study was conducted in order to investigate 'fairness' during social interactions and whether one rule applies for attractive women and another for unattractive women. So, in the interest of fairness, we're going to take a closer look at what it all really means.

For starters, the study was only done on 21 guys... 21! That's basically the same number of guys there were in my class at school and let me tell you, they were not representative of the adult population of males. And they were all students, too. No disrespect to students, but let's be honest, the adage of 'older and wiser' is probably true when it comes to relationships with the opposite sex. FYI, that applies to everyone, regardless of gender.

And really, on a base level, how can a fleeting moment while playing the 'Ultimatum Game' reflect the realities of building long-term working and personal relationships? How many meetings and chats at the water cooler and tireless efforts to bond with people you work with does this study undermine? The easy answer = a lot. 

As a quick aside, too - why hasn't there been a study done on whether attractive men have an easier life? Maybe it turns out Donald Trump only got to where he is today because of his hunky Cali good looks and sharp suits. Maybe all the FTSE 100 companies are headed up by men who look like Zac Efron and wouldn't that be an interesting notion to investigate..?

No, I can't foresee that happening either. 

The study is completely misguided on so many levels. It implies that all men are guffawing buffoons who can't engage with a woman without surreptitiously checking out her bum. Worse, it implies that women deemed attractive - by whom exactly, we ask?! - use their looks as distraction tools ('Oh if I wear red lipstick today the men won't notice that my presentation isn't up to scratch', said no-one ever) and that all other women may as well give up now because some totally babin' girl is going to steamroll you and take your job. It's another means of pitting women against one another and it's total BS. 

Yep. We're calling bullshit on this study for so many reasons, but the one overriding social gender issue remains: Why, oh, why do we persistently measure a woman's success by the way she looks? This study was designed to measure fairness but its implications are so much more than that. How is it fair to say that a female CEO has probably got where she has because her looks have benefitted her in the boardroom or to imply that a woman is only as good as her hair, rather than her business nous or ability to lead?

It is, and always will be nonsensical to degrade female success by correlating it directly to a trait as superficial, perfunctory and downright shallow as her looks. 

Like this? You might be interested in: 

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Follow Francesca on Twitter @Francesca_Don

Tags: FFS News, Science Says