Anderson Cooper’s Experiment on Beauty Bias

In May of 2012 the Anderson Cooper Show hired a team of researchers to conduct an experiment on beauty bias.

In this hidden camera experiment one attractive woman and one unattractive woman sit by their car looking distressed as they puzzle over how to change a tire. In the end, three times more people stop to help the good-looking woman than the plain-looking woman. You can watch the full experiment in this first video:

After the experiment, Anderson brings in some experts to discuss the experiment results. You can watch the full discussion in the video below:

Take a look at two highlights from the discussion:

1. Dr. Fisher: “I’ve put people in brain scans and studied the brain circuitry of the brain reward system for pleasure, and when you look at a pretty face or a handsome face, those parts of the brain become active and dopamine begins to spread over the brain… and you feel better.”

2. Dr. Haideh Hirmand: “It starts very early in life. There are studies that have shown that babies have visual preferences for beautiful pictures, beautiful objects and people.”

Interesting enough, both of these highlights were also addressed in the post “The Psychology of Attraction.” I always find that encouraging when you can reference something that you’ve already learned. It makes me feeling like I’m making a dent in the infinite pool of knowledge.

My Take:

I think that this experiment shows just a sample of the amount of benefits that society gives you just for being beautiful. This could include anything from a free drink to a torn up speeding ticket. Pretty people are simply treated better.

If we’re being honest, I think  we are all guilty of this, whether consciously or unconsciously. As Dr. Fisher said, our brains are going through some chemical changes when we see an attractive face so we may not even be aware of when we consciously became more positively inclined to help a good-looking person.

For example, in movies I unconsciously root for the better looking people. I know that sounds shallow, but it just happens. And that’s why Hollywood hires attractive stars. They want us to identify with and root for their main characters. Hey, they fooled me.

Have you noticed anything like this in life? If not, you can conduct your own experiment on beauty bias for free. Just look around you. Who is treated better in your work place or at school? Do you think it’s based on looks? Maybe partly? Or entirely?

Funny enough, I have noticed that on the days where I fix my hair and dress nicely, there is a noticeable increase in the number of people who hold the door open for me. This might seem silly, but this experiment has been very consistent over my entire college career, and it makes me laugh. On t-shirt and ponytail day I know that I will not be getting any special services. Those are the rough days.

But really, beauty bias can be observed in little everyday happenings. We just don’t normally pick up on them because, thankfully, we have bigger things to worry about. But they are there. And over time they add up to a lifetime of special treatment. All based on looks.

On the other hand, someone who is less attractive may go through poor treatment in little everyday happenings that, over time, add up to a lifetime of poor treatment. All based on looks. This is called discrimination, and I’ll be posting on this subject tomorrow.


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