Does life deal an equal hand to us all? Of course it doesn't. But whether or not you fail to internalise this truth depends on your level of attractiveness, posits a new study undertaken on the usual psych lab-rats: college students.
Titled The Influence of Physical Attractiveness on Belief in a Just World, the research comes out of the University of Nevada. It aimed to test if lovely-looking people were more inclined to believe the "Just World Hypothesis", according to co-author and PhD student, R. Shane Westfall.
This hypothesis states that people get what they deserve, thanks to a moral world order that sees good deeds rewarded and evil actions punished. In other words, rather than privilege dictating the course of your life, you reap what you sow.
“I noticed that the strongest endorsers of the [Just World] hypothesis tend to be those favoured by society," Westfall told Psypost. "This led me to make a connection with my research, as more attractive individuals receive favourable treatment throughout their lives.”
Two studies, incorporating the responses of 395 college students, found that those who were more physically attractive were more likely to agree with statements like: “I feel that people get what they are entitled to have” and “I feel that people who meet with misfortune have brought it on themselves.”
According to the paper, "Both self-rated attractiveness (experiment one) and attractiveness rated by other persons (experiment two) were found to predict endorsement of belief in a just world. Additionally, both attractiveness measures were found to have a relationship with participant’s level of life satisfaction.
“As humans, we often want to compartmentalise various aspects of our self,” Westfall said. “This work helps to crystallise the message that our perception of the world is influenced by factors that we would tend to discount as tangential.
“Our personal beliefs and values are often simply a reflections of the stimuli that we’ve been exposed to, rather than representations of well thought out positions. In the case of this study, our conceptualisation of justice may simply reflect our own privilege."
Like any analysis of a single demographic, the studies' central limitation is the lack of participant diversity. Potential cultural differences (that is, outside the US) were not able to be accounted for; neither were potential differences among different age groups: those most attuned to their appearance are, arguably, people of college-student age.
That said, according to the study, "These findings suggest that physical attractiveness powerfully affects our subjective experience as a human and that just-world beliefs are driven, at least in part, by personal experience with inequality."
This article originally appeared on VICE AU.