Social Psychology Research Proposal

Unfair Advantage: Testing the Advantage of Being Attractive in the Workforce The Halo Effect is the cognitive bias that generalizes that if an individual has one outstanding favorable character trait, the rest of that individual’s trait will be favorable. Specific to physical attractiveness, this is known as the “Attractiveness Halo. ” Attractiveness plays an important role in determining social interactions. In fact, the physical attractiveness of an individual is a vital social cue utilized by others to evaluate other aspects of that individual’s abilities (Kenealy, Frude, & Shaw, 2001).

Because of the attractiveness halo, attractive applicants trying to enter the workforce tend to be viewed by interviewers as being better qualified than unattractive applicants (Shahani, Dipboye, & Gehrlein, 1993. ) In fact, evidence shows that this cognitive bias is so strong that it may lead attractive employees to be recommended to receive higher salaries and better promotions than unattractive employees (Morrow, McElrow, Stamper, & Wilson 1990. ) . On the other hand, unattractive individuals suffer from the opposite effect of the attractiveness halo.

Studies show that less attractive than average people are also perceived as being below average in other characteristics, like intelligence, years of education, confidence, desirability from the opposite sex, sensitivity, and ability to socialize (Jones, Hansson, & Phillips, 1978. ) This effect is so strong that when individuals are initially perceived to have negative rankings of superficial characteristics like attractiveness, decisions made about them later on are likely to reflect this perception (Cann, Siegfried, & Pearce, 1981).

Many television shows and movies utilize this assumption as part of their plotline. For example, in Friends, Gandolf erroneously associates Rachel’s barista skills her extremely high levels of physical attractiveness. Unfortunately, his bias proves defective and she ends up being his worst, yet most attractive employee. In this paper I propose a study to test that, like Gandolf, employers are more likely to hire attractive individuals. Method Twenty-five business firm employers seeking to hire consultants will be recruited for this study.

They will be recruited through several job listings like universities’ post-graduation databases and job-posting websites like monster. com. The employers will be offered a small amount of compensation in exchange of participation. Each employer will be given the profiles of two potential applicants. They will be told to evaluate these people as if they were actual candidates. The fictitious candidates will be equally qualified in the following characteristics: years of experience and prestige of place experience was obtained, prestige of undergraduate university attended, and years out of college.

By random distribution, the two candidates will be assigned an undergraduate business degree either from MIT or UCLA Berkeley (US Weekly tied these two universities for second in best undergraduate business programs. ) Although both applicants will have three years of experience in their field, they will be randomly assigned to either Goldman Sachs or JP Morgan (these are both considered to be equally prestigious places by employers.

Both applicants will mention having the following attributes: strategic thinking, excellent organizational skills, good analytic judgment, sound knowledge in marketing and business planning, commercial knowledge and awareness, excellent mathematical skills, motivation, determination, and drive to achieve financial and business success, and good management, people and team working skills. According to my online research, these are traits inherent to a well-qualified consultant (Hitshopi, 2009.)

The undergraduate GPA will purposefully not be provided to the employers to test the relationship they place between attractiveness and assumed GPA of job applicants. The two applicants will vary in attractiveness. Attractiveness will be determined by the “averageness” of a face; the more attractive face will be a compilation of the average of various facial features common to the Anglo-Saxon genetic disposition. Studies of compilations of average facial traits show that we have a biological preference for the average phenotype because we believe it indicates evolutionary resilient, fertile genotypes (Langlois, Roggman, 1990.)

The other profile will be composed of a person with facial features that deviate from the average (example: wide-set eyes, etc. ) and as a result are found less attractive. After evaluating both profiles, the employers would be asked to complete a brief questionnaire that asks them the following: 1) Which of the two employees they would hire if they had a consultant spot to fill, and 2) To estimate the undergraduate GPA of each of the applicants. The employers will be instructed not to assign the same GPA applicants.

The number of employees choosing the attractive applicants over the unattractive applicants and vice versa will be assessed through a chart and bar graph showing attractiveness (independent variable) on the X-axis, and chances of being hired (dependent variable) on the Y-axis. Likewise, the number of employers assigning the more attractive applicants higher GPA’s and vice versa will also be assessed for an association between attractiveness (independent variable) and GPA (dependent variable) through a chart and bar graph.

It is expected that both results will show that employers will want to hire the attractive individuals more than the unattractive individuals and that they will assign the attractive individuals higher GPAs than the non-attractive individuals. If the hypothesized results were found, it would provide evidence for the generalization that attractive people have an unfair advantage in everything, including the workforce. It would also bolster existing evidence of the Halo Effect, especially the Attractiveness Halo.

This is because it would prove that employers allow the positivity of one outstanding trait (attractiveness) to spillover on to other traits (intelligence). Some setbacks of this study are that the applicants attended different schools and worked at different places to prevent them from sounding identical, so employers may have chosen one applicant over the other because of personal preference of one place over the other. Also, because both applicants were female, we do not know if the results hold true for males as well. This is a question for future studies to address.

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