Recently, I was watching an interview with Simon Cowell and he was asked how he was raised and Simon replied, “My mum raised me with manners and always said manners make the man.” It just so happened, I was focusing on this same thing with my 9-year old son Angus. I told Angus “manners make the man Angus” and that he should always be nice and a gentleman. Angus said “Well mom, how come the girls like the mean boys?” That very question made me think. So are the sayings nice guys finish last or pretty girls always get their way really true? Well, according to some rather encouraging new research, an attractive personality may be one of the most important factors in perceived beauty. In other words, being a good person could actually make people perceive you as more attractive.
A recent study, led by Yan Zhang of Huazhong University in China and published in the November 2014 issue of Personality and Individual Differences, found positive personality traits to increase perceptions of facial attractiveness. The researchers tested 120 male and female adult Chinese participants, randomly divided into three groups, and asked each participant to rate 60 photos of unfamiliar Chinese women making neutral facial expressions. Two weeks later, participants rated the same pictures again. But this time, one group was given positive personality descriptions, like kindness and honesty, alongside the same photos. The second group looked at the same photos, but read accompanying negative personality descriptors (such as meanness or dishonesty). The control group was shown the same photos without any personality descriptors.
All three groups had similar attractiveness ratings in the first round of photo rankings. But in the second round when the descriptions were added, the group shown the same photos with positive personality descriptors assigned the highest attractiveness ratings to the photos, while the group with negative personality descriptors ranked the photos less attractive than the positive group and the control group.
My take on this is that “what is good is beautiful,” with personality reflecting desired traits as facial attractiveness. This phenomenon can also be called the “halo effect.” We can thus presume that personality traits may contribute to judging facial attractiveness and that the personality traits desired in a person are reflected in facial preference. Aesthetics and beauty have fascinated human beings from the very dawn of mankind, inspiring countless artists and philosophers. However, an absolute definition of aesthetic values remains elusive.