Does being beautiful on the outside make you beautiful on the inside? Not necessarily, although attractive women are often thought to have more desirable personality traits in the eyes of strangers, new research shows.
In actuality, beautiful women might be more likely to have some less attractive values, favoring conformity and self-promotion over independence and tolerance, the study found.
Researchers from the Open University of Israel and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem recruited 118 female students to serve as "targets" in the study. These women completed questionnaires to measure their values (such as tradition, self-direction, conformity and benevolence) and personality traits (such as extroversion, agreeableness and neuroticism). The participants, whose average age was 29, were then video-recorded for about a minute as they entered a room and read a weather forecast while looking into the camera.
Another 118 participants served as judges. Forty percent of this group was male and each watched the video footage of a different target, chosen randomly, before evaluating that woman's values, traits and attractiveness.
If a target was judged as physically attractive, the researchers found she was also perceived to be agreeable, open to experience, extroverted, conscientious and emotionally stable — all socially desirable traits. The judges were also more likely to believe that more attractive women valued achievement compared with less attractive women.
"People are warned not to 'judge a book by its cover,' but they often do exactly that," the researchers wrote in their paper in the journal Psychological Science.
Meanwhile, the questionnaires that the targets filled out about themselves showed no correlations between these personality traits and their perceived attractiveness. But the women rated as more physically attractive by their peers were more likely to endorse values like conformity and tradition rather than values like self-direction and universalism, which is linked to tolerance and a concern for others, the researchers said.
"Thus, whereas people hold the 'what is beautiful is good' stereotype, our findings suggest that the beautiful strive for conformity rather than independence and for self-promotion rather than tolerance," wrote the authors, led by Lihi Segal-Caspi of the Open University.