Apr 16, 2010

The Prince Charming Effect

I'm a total sucker for Disney movies. Anything that hints fairy tale romance is my kinda flick. Of course I never question why the villain in the movie is always creepy looking. I mean, hello, they're bad!  Evil characters must look the part, right? The hero, on the other hand, is always attractive. The male protagonist must be equal parts good looking, charming, intelligent, and be able to save the day. That's just movie code. I didn't make it up! 

 It seems like there's more to these common movie stereotypes than we thought. According to an article in the Montreal Gazette, a study from neuroscientists at Duke proposes that a woman's brain processes and correlates good looks with good acts in the same way.

We're fickle creatures aren't we!? At least now we can't really be blamed for our desire to have an unattainable Prince Charming. Kidding!

Scientists discovered that the same areas of the brain light up when females see a less attractive person or hear an immoral act described. A simultaneous neural overlap occurs when women see an attractive face or hear about someone doing a good deed.

This study is an indicator of why less attractive people are more generally discriminated against and why attractive people seem to have more opportunities handed to them. The study co-author Roberto Cabeza, a neuroscientist at Duke University in North Carolina says, "People who are less attractive are more likely to be found guilty in a trial, less likely to be hired and get a good salary, and so forth".

Anthony Synnott, a professor of sociology at Concordia University in Montreal, says the study explains why there are such "virtually unavoidable" appearance biases in our society today. He says, "This is the first scientific basis for what we've had in our literature and our plays and our language for a very long time,". He notes such widely used phrases as " she looks heavenly," "he looks like the devil," and "good-looking," all of which link notions of morality with looks.

It's widely recognized that attractive people tend to be treated better but it wasn't clear if it was a societal choice or a human instinct. We now know that treating someone differently based on their looks is more than just a personal or conscious choice. The moral here? Stick to the old saying: Don't judge a book by its cover!

Thanks to Bella Sugar for posting the great story!

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