Study reveals job prospects rely on attractiveness

YOUR chance of getting a pay rise could depend on your looks, according to a new study led by The University of Western Australia.

Dr Laura Fruhen, from UWA's School of Psychology, and researchers from the University of Glasgow and Abertay University in the UK, looked at the extent to which perceptions of facial attractiveness, trustworthiness and dominance could affect how much people were willing to pay others and whether the links varied at different organisational levels. The research was recently published in The Leadership Quarterly.

"What we found was that seemingly superficial perceptions of others could impact pay at different managerial levels from shop floor managers right through to senior managers," Dr Fruhen said.

"We worked out that over the course of a 40-year career, an income advantage of between A$11,000 and A$26,000 could be achieved just based on having particular facial features."

And what are those features? According to Dr Fruhen, faces in the study were rated based on their attractiveness, dominance and trustworthiness.

"Perceiving someone's dominance, trustworthiness or attractiveness is something that we do intuitively and it affects how we act towards others.

As part of the experiment, 1200 people were asked to rate individual faces for attractiveness, dominance or trustworthiness, with another 1432 people assessing how much they would pay them.

The study found that shop floor employees benefited the most from being attractive, while at a senior management level, trustworthiness was most important.

"The setting we chose for our research was retail, and the shop floor job we included was one where there would be interaction with customers," Dr Fruhen said. "People generally like to associate with attractive people and tend to buy more when served by an attractive sales person."

She said senior positions often required especially high levels of trust in teams, as they involved more uncertainty and complexity and decisions might not always be reached through consensus of all team members.

"This may explain why facial trustworthiness was especially rewarded in senior positions," Dr Fruhen said.

Co-author Professor Ben Jones, from the University of Glasgow, said many earlier studies had shown how aspects our appearance had influenced how others treated us.

"However, our study is the first to show that facial attractiveness, trustworthiness and dominance each uniquely contribute to pay awards."

Dr Fruhen said the findings could be used to strategic advantage by employees looking to enhance their CVs or online profiles on business-related social networking sites by "picking the right pictures for the desired effect" as an example.

Also, employers could be encouraged to evaluate employees without photos in order to reduce the impact of facial features on pay and by educating those who make salary decisions about the potential impact of employees' facial appearance on their decisions.