"Never judge a book by its cover," so the saying goes. But as we humans know, it isn't that easy. Within fractions of a second of seeing someone for the first time, we make all kinds of assumptions and judgments based on their appearance, including dress -- or lack thereof.
A new study suggests that the more skin someone shows, the more likely they are to be perceived as possessing less self control and less power over their own decision making, according to a team of researchers from Yale, Northeastern, Harvard and University of Maryland (via BusinessInsider and Wired).
The study involved 160 students who were viewed of two sets of photos of an attractive woman (Erin) or a man (Aaron), and read brief descriptions of the models. The first set of photos were head shots of each model, while the second set showed the models from the waist up in either a bikini (Erin) or bare-chested (Aaron).
Those pictured were then judged for "agency" (an individual's level of self-control and power to make decisions for him- or herself) and "experience" (someone's ability to perceive and feel), as BusinessInsider explains it. Study participants rated the level of agency and experience each model had, on a five-point scale.
Wired explains what happened next:
It turns out that a glimpse of flesh strongly influences our perception of Erin/Aaron. When the pictures only showed a face, they had lots of agency. But when we saw their torso, we suddenly imagined them as obsessed with experience. Instead of being good at self-control, they were suddenly extremely sensitive to hunger and desire. Same person, same facial expression, same brief description -- but a hint of body changed everything.
How might the findings play out when searching for a job? Here's BusinessInsider's take:
It shows the sexier the person, the less perceived personal power he or she has. Based on the preconceived notions we attach to attractiveness, a person might be less inclined to be taken seriously, even when appropriately dressed.
Many people would like to believe that they don't judge someone based on his or her appearance, but the research suggests otherwise. Acting on what we see, however, remains within our control.
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