People tend to judge others by their attractiveness - and, by association, goods and services.. Recent work suggests the beautiful have a greater tendency to support hierarchy than their less attractive peers. It doesn't seem terribly robust at this point, but interesting to consider.
"What's surprising is that we find that most people seem to endorse hierarchy when they think they're attractive and oppose it when they think they're not," Belmi said. "Why would people's stance on inequality shift so quickly depending on whether they think they are attractive?"
Belmi began the research after he noticed that Americans' colossal spending on personal grooming kept up despite the recession. Americans spent at least $200 billion on their physical appearance in 2008 — and continue to up the ante. Cosmetic surgery is now the fastest-growing medical expenditure. And, today, Americans are willing to spend more on personal grooming than on their reading material, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
If people were willing to keep spending on beauty products in the face of economic hardship, Belmi reasoned, there might be a reason why.
The research found that the mirror effect held true for study participants regardless of gender or ethnicity. Feeling attractive changed their own views of where they fell in the hierarchy, and where others should fall.
"Everyone has had the experience of feeling attractive —or unattractive," said Neale. "Other researchers have examined how others' notions of our physical attractiveness affects us; what we looked at was the impact of how you felt about yourself."
Belmi and Neale's research doesn't address how cultural stereotypes of beauty — such as, in the United States, having lighter skin and straight hair— might be internalized and lead to self-stereotyping. But if you feel you are unattractive or don't fit the cultural stereotype, you may also feel that you belong in a lower social class, Belmi said.