Intelligence versus attractiveness; is there a correlation?

March 29, 2009 | By | 5 Replies More

Intriguing post by points out research that purports to show that intelligence correlates positively with attractiveness.

This research does dispel the notion that very attractive woman are less intelligent than average-looking woman; according to this research, very attractive woman are in the most intelligent group.  I’m mulling over these findings; I don’t quite know what to think of this yet.  I do know that I’m highly suspicious of any sort of simplistic IQ-based characterization of “intelligence”  (I recently made that point here).

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Category: Bigotry, Noteworthy, Psychology Cognition

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

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  1. Niklaus Pfirsig says:

    Intelligence Quotients are not the only flawed idea. Attractiveness is greatly influenced by culture.

    additionally, experiments from several years ago indicate that physically attractive people are perceived to be better than the less attractive, and are judged less harshly.

    One experiment involved a number of short essays, all actually penned by the same person. The essays intentionally contained several technical and factual error, and the test subjects were each asked to assess the essays for an essay contest.

    A control group received copies of the essays without a photo. The test group members each received copies of the same essays with photos of a child (presumably the author of the essay) attached. For each test subject the photos were shuffled and attached to different essays.

    The control group identified the various errors consistently. The test group showed a tendency to miss errors when the essay was accompanied by a photo of an attractive child, while assessments with the photos of the less attractive children were more like the control group.

  2. Erika Price says:

    Where cultural conceptions of beauty differ tend to be very changeable traits, such as dress and bodily modification (make-up, foot binding, corsets, etc). There does appear to be some deeply-set, natural preferences for objective beauty. Babies stare much longer at faces deemed more "attractive" by adults; staring time has long been interpreted in babies as a sign of preference. See here.

    Of course, there are many somewhat impotent attempts to link attractiveness with intelligence. For instance, there is the relatively new notion that hippy women store more omega-3 fatty acids in their bodies, which will in turn result in smarter babies- thus curvy women are more attractive (see here).

    At this point, the interpretation is iffy at best. Perhaps the media and the lay public enjoy such links because it justifies our natural preference for the cute? Attractive people are always rated as more intelligent and capable than their homelier fellows.

  3. Nii says:

    I must be a major outlier. I am both short (5' 3'') and quiet unattractive, but I fall far above average in terms of intelligence.

  4. MikeFitz17 says:

    It's been my experience there are a lot of really good-looking people who are dull, and a lot of homely people who are really bright. There are also a few really good looking people who are also really bright.

    I think the norm is personified by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan. By all reports, she is a brilliant person. And happily for her career ambitions, she is also homely and overweight in a reassuringly good way. If she had the natural good looks of, say, Michelle Pfeiffer, I doubt anyone in the legal or academic communities would have ever taken Ms. Kagan very seriously. A harsh judgment perhaps, but very true.

    In this connection, I believe that most attractive women (if they are really intelligent) learn to downplay their intellectual abilities out of a well-founded fear of scaring away likely suitors. Most men, even the most confident, are too intimidated by a combination of beauty and brains. I'm not saying that beautiful women are necessarily dim, just that beautiful women feel pressure to downplay their brains.

    Meanwhile, there are some spectacularly stupid women who, strictly because of their looks and willingness to do certain things in front of a camera, have made staggering fortunes. Kendra Wilkinson (a "reality" TV star) is dimmer than a box of hammers, but she rakes in way more dollars in a year than the smartest folks at CalTech and MIT.

    I have also learned that really good-looking people, regardless of gender, get a lot of undeserved breaks. It's not fair and it's bullshit, but such is life. The TV sitcom "30 Rock" even parodies this essential fact of life with Jon Hamm's appearances as Liz's handsome but outrageously incompetent physician boyfriend. The guy is terrible at everything he tries his hand at, but doesn't realize it because of the protective "bubble" his good looks afford him.

    Finally, Abraham Lincoln (whose birthday we celebrate this month, and who was ridiculed often for his plain looks) probably said it best: "God must love ugly people, because he made so many of us."

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