What would we do without social scientists? Creeping about with their clipboards and calculators, they are forever coming up with solemn, statistic-studded pronouncements about things so obvious we were practically born knowing them. And yet there is something satisfying about having our assorted prejudices and hunches so routinely confirmed. It would be more interesting if they were routinely upset, but that does not happen very often.
Take the study unveiled by researchers from London’s Guildhall University last week proving that — duh! — looks matter. These people were paid to find out that, in Britain, good-looking people have better jobs and earn more than their plain or downright ugly colleagues. Moreover, they say, tall men earn, on average, 10 percent more than short ones and overweight women earn 5 percent less than thinner women. (Evidently, it is all right to be a fat British man or a short British woman as long as you are not otherwise horrible to look at). Their earth-shaking conclusion? Try to be born a tall, handsome man.
Now where have we heard that phrase before? Fairy tales? Greek myths? Hollywood movies? Schlock novels? It encapsulates a universal truth. One hardly needs to be British to reap the financial rewards of beauty. Russian tennis player Anna Kournikova — blonde, beautiful and not a bit fat — famously earns a lot more than players just as capable as she is, to their chagrin. The criteria of beauty may vary somewhat from culture to culture — in vertically challenged Japan, for example, tallness is surely less important — but the principle stands. A pretty face never hurt anyone in an interview situation.
The authors of the British study are anxious that employers draw the proper conclusion from their findings, namely, that they should “review equal-opportunity policies” to allow and correct for subliminal prejudices in favor of pulchritude. We say: Don’t bother. Luckily, the human race is so designed that really beautiful people are few and far between. They adorn the landscape and brighten up the office. Good luck to them.
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