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Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the fairest of them all? Thinking that one is attractive increases the tendency to support inequality


  • Belmi, Peter
  • Neale, Margaret


Five studies tested the hypothesis that self-perceived attractiveness shapes people’s perceptions of their social class (subjective SES), which, in turn, shape how people respond to inequality and social hierarchies. Study 1 found that self-perceived attractiveness was associated with support for group-based dominance and belief in legitimizing ideologies, and that these relationships were mediated by subjective social class. Subsequent experiments showed that higher self-perceived attractiveness increased subjective SES, which in turn, increased SDO (Study 2 and Study 5); promoted stronger beliefs in dispositional causes of inequality (Study 3); and reduced donations to a movement advocating for social equality (Study 4). By contrast, lower self-perceived attractiveness decreased subjective SES, which in turn, led to a greater tendency to reject social hierarchies and to construe inequality in terms of contextual causes. These effects emerged even after controlling for power, status, and self-esteem, and were not simply driven by inducing people to see themselves positively on desirable traits (Study 4 and Study 5).

Suggested Citation

  • Belmi, Peter & Neale, Margaret, 2014. "Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the fairest of them all? Thinking that one is attractive increases the tendency to support inequality," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 124(2), pages 133-149.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:jobhdp:v:124:y:2014:i:2:p:133-149
    DOI: 10.1016/j.obhdp.2014.03.002

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Kay, Aaron C. & Jost, John T., 2003. "Complementary Justice: Effects of "Poor But Happy" and "Poor But Honest" Stereotype Exemplars on System Justification and Implicit Activation of the Justice Motive," Research Papers 1753r, Stanford University, Graduate School of Business.
    2. Pfeffer, Jeffrey & DeVoe, Sanford E., 2012. "The Economic Evaluation of Time Organizational Causes and Individual Consequences," Research Papers 2123, Stanford University, Graduate School of Business.
    3. Unknown, 2010. "WHO Technical Manual on Tobacco Tax Administration," University of California at San Francisco, Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education qt8tn2317v, Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education, UC San Francisco.
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    Cited by:

    1. Berggren, Niclas & Jordahl, Henrik & Poutvaara, Panu, 2017. "The right look: Conservative politicians look better and voters reward it," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 146(C), pages 79-86.


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