Attractiveness Bias – Judge a book by its cover

she' hot

If you have a LinkedIn or a Facebook profile, you would have most likely heard that you should use a professional personal photograph for your profile picture. I took this advice seriously enough to employ one of my professional photographer Friends to take my Facebook and LinkedIn profile picture for me. Despite the adage not to judge a book by its cover, facial cues often guide first impressions, and these first impressions guide our decisions.

Attractiveness Bias

The theory that lends support to this advice is called the “attractiveness bias tendency.” Person perception studies have revealed that there exists a tendency for people to prescribe more positive traits to an attractive person, compared to unattractive, persons. A beautiful image of a man or woman will conjure a form of socially desirable stereotyping.

cicero quote

IN A 1972 LANDMARK STUDY showed participants photographs of attractive and unattractive individuals and asked them to rate these people on a series of personality traits. They found that attractive individuals are perceived as more sensitive, kind, sociable, engaging, outgoing, energetic, poised, and exciting than less attractive people.

Louis Vuitton advertisement
Louis Vuitton advertisement

Baby Face Bias

Another pervasive although less well known bias concerns a person’s facial maturity.  Most people respond positively to images of babies.  Some people regardless of age, have facial features that resemble those of a baby.  People with baby faces, round rather than a elongated head, a forehead that protrudes forward, large eyes and small jaw bones are perceived as more naive, honest, helpless and kind (think mini me).

Baby with blue eyes
Baby with blue eyes

With knowledge comes responsibility

In my website mock-ups, I will always consider the rendering of images. While not wanting to perpetuate gender myths, digital design is a form of visual communication. Although attractiveness may be viewed as a peripheral route to persuasion it is important as a designer to be aware of those incidental cues. In my mock-ups, until I have been supplied photography I will use stock photography as placeholder images. I use photographs of attractive men and women as well as beautiful places, things, and objects.

teamSimon is a Sydney based digital designer. He is the Director of a boutique digital design studio, Bailey Street Design located in the vibrant inner west suburb of Newtown.  Simon studied graphic design at Shillington College and specialises in web design for small and medium size businesses.  Simon and his team (Toby the studio dog) are passionate about visual communication in the digital environment


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