Looks: Why They Matter More Than You Ever Imagined


We all know one hard and undeniable truth: Physical beauty comes with tremendous power, and tremendous benefits. Those who possess it are generally luckier in love, more likely to be popular, and more apt to get better grades in school. But very few of us realize just how much looks affect every aspect of our lives. Recent studies document that people blessed with good looks earn about 10% more than their average-looking colleagues. They are also more likely to get hired and promoted at work. What exactly is this...

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Looks: Why They Matter More Than You Ever Imagined

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We all know one hard and undeniable truth: Physical beauty comes with tremendous power, and tremendous benefits. Those who possess it are generally luckier in love, more likely to be popular, and more apt to get better grades in school. But very few of us realize just how much looks affect every aspect of our lives. Recent studies document that people blessed with good looks earn about 10% more than their average-looking colleagues. They are also more likely to get hired and promoted at work. What exactly is this “physical attractiveness” phenomenon and how does it affect each and every one of us?

Dr. Gordon L. Patzer has devoted the last 30 years to investigating this unsettling phenomenon for both women and men, and how it touches every part of our lives. In Looks, he reveals not only its impact on romance, but also on family dynamics, performance in school, career, courtroom proceedings, politics and government. Looks is the first book to explore how the power of beauty affects both sexes and how the rise of reality TV shows, cosmetic surgery, and celebrity culture have contributed to our culture’s overall obsession with being beautiful.

Unflinching and topical, Looks uncovers the sometimes ugly truth about beauty and its profound effects on all of our lives.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Here is a book whose title says it all. Written by an academic expert on "lookism" who is also director and founder of the Appearance Phenomenon Institute, this volume is an exhaustive examination of how the handily summarized "PA" (for personal attractiveness) gets you everywhere, from the better job and the better spouse to the better verdict at your criminal trial. Beginning with early evidence of lookism in history, Patzer analyzes preferential treatment given to pretty people from beautiful babyhood onward. While consumers of women's magazines might not find as much new information as other readers, Patzer refers to dozens of studies, articles and investigation to prove his thesis. Yet Patzer's volume doesn't offer much in the way of solutions, apparently because you've either got it or you don't. While Patzer does criticize the overzealousness of the media, reality television and unethical plastic surgeons, he only devotes one chapter to personal affirmations to help deal with and fight back on image obsession. Although he concludes by proclaiming the reader's newfound awareness of lookism's pervasiveness is a step forward, one can't help seeing the weakness in a conclusion that leaves the reader with little more than a well-argued reminder of our culture's shallow side. (Jan.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780814480540
  • Publisher: AMACOM Books
  • Publication date: 1/30/2008
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 1,495,669
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Gordon L. Patzer, Ph.D. (Chicago, IL) has held various executive positions in and out of the academic world. He is currently Dean of Chicago’s Roosevelt University, and serves as the Director and Founder of the Appearance Phenomenon Institute. Dr. Patzer has investigated “lookism” and the physical attractiveness phenomenon for more than 30 years and has been featured in such publications as The Los Angeles Times, Harper’s Bazaar, Mademoiselle, Elle , and Self Magazine. He has also been featured on Dateline NBC , The Today Show, and The O’Reilly Factor.

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Read an Excerpt


Rendering Judgment: How Looks Affect Courtroom Results

How PA testifies in courtrooms, jury boxes, and judges' chambers

"May it please the court, I enter into evidence that my client is a tall, handsome, healthy specimen, as virile a defendant as has ever graced this chamber. Could such a man actually do the terrible things of which he is accused? Plainly, he could not! Furthermore, I pray the court take judicial notice of my own physiognomy, which includes a broad chest and lean waist set off by a head of thick, lustrous hair, pearl-white teeth, unblemished skin devoid of scars or moles, twinkling eyes, and a duo of disarming dimples. Obviously, you must and will believe everything that I say!

"I therefore have no doubt that the court will find that the crime of which my client is accused, though indeed a very serious offense, could not possibly have been committed by such a splendid-looking fellow as he. I now move that the court dismiss all charges, so that my client may at once regain his liberty and return to the pursuit of happiness to which he is so obviously entitled."

Okay, okay. Let's get real. Would any lawyer really come into court with such a ludicrous defense, claiming that his client is so gorgeous that he could not possibly be the archfiend described in sworn testimony by a phalanx of credible witnesses? Or that because the attorney himself is a hunk, the judge and jury ought to reject the testimony of a team of forensic experts, ignore a truckload of physical evidence—and accept whatever the defendant's lawyer tells them instead?

You bet. Happens most every day.

Of course, few attorneys are so foolish as to couch their argument quite so baldly—they can't actually say such things aloud, much less for the record in a court of law. But that doesn't stop smart lawyers from using their own PA, that of witnesses, and especially their clients' own good looks to influence jury verdicts and judicial rulings. And it's been going on for a very long time.

Consider, for example, the 1929 trial of theater mogul Alexander Pantages, accused of raping seventeen-year-old Eunice Pringle. She appeared in court with her long dark hair in a pigtail fastened with a simple bow and wearing a dark blue, ankle-length dress with Dutch collar and cuffs, long gloves, flat shoes, and black stockings—as demure an adolescent as ever took the witness stand.

Pantages denied that any rape had occurred, denied that one was even attempted, swore that no such idea had even entered his head. Miss Pringle had made an appointment to audition her dance act, he said, then came to his downtown Los Angeles office. After chatting for a few minutes, she suddenly jumped up and without warning tore her clothing, jerked his shirt out of his pants, then ran into Spring Street screaming that she had been raped.

Pringle told another story. Pantages had shown no interest in her act and had instead pawed her, and when she resisted he apparently became infused with animal lust. With almost superhuman strength, he overpowered her, forced her onto his carpeted floor, pried her legs apart, and had his way with her.

There were no other witnesses.

The case came down to "he said, she said." The jury seemed fascinated with the contrast between the charming, shy, sweet young girl and the wrinkled, scrawny, sixty-something Pantages and his stiff, Old-World manners.

Hoping to show the jury what kind of person Pringle really was, the attorneys for Pantages petitioned the judge to order her to appear for cross-examination dressed exactly as she had been on the day of the alleged rape. When Pringle returned to court the schoolgirl was gone. In her place was a sexy young thing in an adult hairstyle, full makeup, and a clinging, low-cut dress that accentuated every lush curve—an irresistible, full-bodied young woman with the face of an angel.

This was the worst thing that could have happened for Pantages. Now anyone could see how a man with his faded looks and old-fashioned clothing—a man with little sex appeal and few prospects—could have lusted after a sexy morsel like Pringle and lost control of his sexual urges.

The aging showman was convicted and sent to prison.

Two years later, however, on appeal, he won a new trial. New evidence was introduced that thoroughly discredited Pringle's testimony: By her sworn account, Pantages would have required not only superhuman strength but also four arms. New evidence suggested that Pringle had been bribed to bring rape charges against Pantages, paid by her forty-something lover, a mysterious Russian in the employ of an East Coast bootlegger, businessman, and banker named Joseph P. Kennedy. Yes, that Kennedy—the father of the future president of the United States. He coveted Pantages's chain of sixty theaters and wanted to buy them at fire-sale price to turn his start-up film studio into a rival to more established studios and himself into a player.

The second jury deliberated briefly; Pantages left court a free man.1

But how could such a thing happen? How could an innocent businessman with a sterling reputation be convicted of rape solely on the accusation of a single witness? Simply put, because the alleged victim was young and beautiful, and the alleged rapist exactly her opposite. Guided by a skilled prosecutor, jurors allowed intellect and reason to bow before emotion and instinct.

But it's hard to blame them: Science and society have struggled for centuries to find connections between human appearance and behavior, especially antisocial behavior.

In the sixteenth century, J. Baptiste della Porte (1535–1615) invented the pseudoscience of physiognomy, which claimed that judgments about people's character could be made from the appearance of their faces. After studying the cadavers of convicts executed for various crimes, he announced that people with small ears, bushy eyebrows, small noses, and large lips were the most likely to commit criminal acts. Two centuries later, physiognomist Johan Kaspar Lavater (1741–1801) made a connection between "shifty-eyed" people with weak chins and arrogant noses and criminal behavior.

Today, no serious sociologist or criminologist gives the slightest credence to such theories. Yet, until about 1950, respected academics known as "criminal anthropologists" preached that studying the human physique, or body constitution, would eventually show which people were born with genetically determined criminal tendencies, and that the expression of these "bad" genes could be ascertained by expert observation of an individual's facial features and body characteristics.2

Such pseudoscience probably rests on superstition, often intertwined with religious teachings, that links evil with ugliness. In antiquity, many people believed that those who consorted with or were possessed by demons, and often their descendants, were afflicted with repulsive appearances—God's way of warning others and of punishing sin. Evil creatures are variously described as the Old Testament's "fallen angels" or the New Testament's "malignant spirits." Many even have names and are associated with such temptations as lust, mischief, or crime. For example, the demon Asmodeus could take either male or female form; it filled people with insatiable desires for sex, leading them to adultery, buggery, even child molestation. Beelzebub, lord of flies, was believed to inspire murder and cannibalism—anything to do with dead bodies. Nor were demons limited to Judeo-Christian theology. The Hindi vampire demon Rakshasas, for example, is associated with murder lust and was believed capable, for evil purposes, of reanimating dead bodies.3

Even today—in an era of near-instantaneous worldwide communications, where billions of pages of Internet information are available to anyone with a home computer, and in a time when robotic explorers beam back close-up images of Saturn's moons and the dry seabeds of Mars—millions of Americans say they believe the Bible, demons included, is the literal Word of God. Not many years ago a substantial fraction of America—not all residing in rural areas or small towns—believed that when children were born with cerebral palsy, a brain disorder mostly afflicting motor skills, it was because of the sin of a parent or grandparent—bad blood, as it was called.4

Still, it's been a while since "experts" opined that when it comes to guilt or innocence, one's face equates to one's destiny. Surely, civilization and the application of courtroom justice have come a very long way, haven't they? Then what could cause a modern juror, sworn to uphold the law and to determine the facts of a case, to be swayed by the perception of a witness's physical attractiveness?

To help answer this question, in 1988 Bruce Darby and Devon Jeffers of Ohio's Denison University created a mock jury to investigate the interaction and effect(s) of hypothetical defendants' PA on jurors. They recruited seventy-eight college students to serve as mock jurors and for openers asked them to rate their own PA.

Then photos of "defendants" were shown, "charges" were read, and "evidence" introduced. The jury was asked to evaluate, in turn, three categories of defendant—attractive, moderately attractive, or unattractive—and to decide not only the individual's guilt or innocence but also, after rendering a guilty verdict, whether the individual was truly responsible for the lawless act. Finally, jurors were asked to rate each defendant's trustworthiness, happiness, honesty, intelligence, and likability, and to recommend punishment for those "convicted."5

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Table of Contents


INTRODUCTION: Looks, Lookism, and the Media 1

CHAPTER 1: Older Than Civilization 8

CHAPTER 2: Pass the Genes, Please: How Looks Drive Dating, Courtship, and Marriage 22

CHAPTER 3: As the Twig Is Bent: How Physical Attractiveness Affects Family Dynamics 45

CHAPTER 4: Readin’, ’Ritin’, ’Rithmetic, ’n’ Ridicule 57

CHAPTER 5: The Job Is Looking Good 73

CHAPTER 6: Rendering Judgment: How Looks Affect Courtroom Results 90

CHAPTER 7: Physiognomy and Public Service 109

CHAPTER 8: Seeing Is Believing 125

CHAPTER 9: The Dark Side of Physical Attractiveness 158

CHAPTER 10: What Price for Good Looks? 175

CHAPTER 11: The Big Business of Beauty 203

EPILOGUE: Rising Above the Effects of Lookism 217




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