Why beautiful people grab more attention

People pay special attention to identify more accurately the personality traits of people who are physically attractive than others during short encounters, says the study by researchers at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver.

While previous research has shown that individuals tend to find attractive people more intelligent, friendly and competent than others, the new study confirms that people actually pay much closer attention to people they find attractive, according to psychology professor Jeremy Biesanz who led the study.

The goal of the study was to determine whether a person's attractiveness impacts others' ability to discern their personality traits, Biesanz has been quoted as saying in a university statement.

As part of their study, the researchers placed more than 75 male and female participants into groups of five to 11 people for three-minute, one-on-one conversations. After each interaction, participants rated partners on physical attractiveness and five major personality traits: openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness and neuroticism. Each person also rated their own personality.

Researchers found that despite an overall positive bias towards people they found attractive, participants identified the "relative ordering" of personality traits of attractive participants more accurately than others.

Reflecting on the results, Biesanz said, "If people think Jane is beautiful, and she is very organised and somewhat generous, people will see her as more organised and generous than she actually is."

"Despite this bias, our study shows that people will also correctly discern the relative ordering of Jane's personality traits - that she is more organised than generous - better than others they find less attractive."

He said people are motivated to pay closer attention to beautiful people for many reasons, including curiosity, romantic interest or a desire for friendship or social status. "Not only do we judge books by their covers, we read the ones with beautiful covers much closer than others."

The researchers said their study reaffirms that beauty lies in the eye of the beholder. They said participants were best at identifying the personalities of people they found attractive, regardless of whether others found them attractive.

The study has been published in the December edition of Psychological Science.

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