Is is true that blondes are naive, fattiesare funny and tall people make money?
24 February 2005, BONN - Most people say that height, shape and hair colour play little role in the actual abilities and character traits of someone else, but these outward aspects of a person nevertheless play a deciding role in judging people for the first time. They provide the first important impression, and this is based on "nothing more than prejudice", says psychologist Reinhold Bergler of Bonn University. The power of prejudice is so strong that mere body size can decide success or failure in a pro
24 February 2005
BONN - Most people say that height, shape and hair colour play little role in the actual abilities and character traits of someone else, but these outward aspects of a person nevertheless play a deciding role in judging people for the first time.
They provide the first important impression, and this is based on "nothing more than prejudice", says psychologist Reinhold Bergler of Bonn University.
The power of prejudice is so strong that mere body size can decide success or failure in a professional career, particularly in a man.
"Long ago body size was seen as equivalent to strength, and this notion remains genetically programmed into us," says Guido Heineck of the Institute for Family Research in Vienna.
According to a study he has completed, every additional centimetre in height brings home 0.6 percent more pay every month.
"If one looks at two men with equivalent qualifications, but who differ by 10 centimetres in height, the taller man will earn EUR 1,800 more a year on average," Heineck says.
Tall people are seen as self-confident and ambitious. They are able to assert themselves and show leadership qualities.
"One has more respect for taller people, one feels smaller in their presence," Heineck says.
This means that taller people applying for a job are at an advantage, as smaller applicants are literally looked down upon.
With women height plays a subordinate role in their careers.
But both sexes profit from being good looking. "The more attractive someone appears to others, the more positive their judgement of him or her," says Manfred Hassebrauck, a professor of psychology at the University of Wuppertal in Germany.
Good looking people of either sex are regarded as more intelligent and more competent than others, he believes.
But there is a downside. They are also regarded as vain and lacking in modesty.
Being attractive also has an effect on earnings. "There are studies that show that the more attractive someone is, the more they earn," Hassebrauck says.
Men in particular gain from this effect. "In professional life, looking good is more important than it is when choosing a partner," he says.
With women, the figure is decisive. "Slim women are judged more positively than fat women," Heineck says.
Studies in the United States have shown that plump women are paid less on average than slim women, because they are regarded as less intelligent, less disciplined and less motivated.
Juliane Degner, a psychologist at the University of Saarbruecken in Germany, has looked into prejudices regarding people who are overweight.
"Fat people are on the one hand seen as stupid, lazy, slow and frustrated, but on the other as humorous, companionable and open to contact with others," she says.
Women are judged by their figures, but they are not only victims of this kind of scornful evaluation. Women judge other women by their body shape to a greater extent than men do.
And the thinner the person harbouring them, the stronger the prejudices against plump women, according to Degner. "Fatties are less negative in their judgement of other fatties," she says.
Apart from prejudices regarding height, good looks and body shape, there are those relating to the hair of the subject under observation.
"Men believe they can tell more from the hair of someone than women do," Bergler says.
Men believe they can see from someone's hair whether they are assertive, intelligent, self-confident or goal oriented.
"And in this they make more bad jugements than women do," he says.
Red-haired men in particular are the victims of negative prejudice, says Ronald Henss, who teaches psychology at the University of Saarland in southwestern Germany.
"They are not seen as intelligent, are thought to be more nervous, less sure of themselves and less manly," Henss says.
The results suggest that red-haired men should consider dying their hair, at least when looking for a job.
In the case of red-haired women, hair colour is not as decisive. "There it depends on the face, whether the person in question is judged negatively or positively," he says.
But red-haired women are seen in general as being spirited and mettlesome or on the negative side being uncontrolled and nervous.
Blondes are, however, universally seen as attractive in general, although there are classical prejudices about the "dumb blonde" type with a Marilyn Monroe figure, youthful appearance and long hair.
Baldies also have to confront prejudice. "They are not thought to be successful with women, although they are seen as faithful father-figures who love their children," Henss says.
He says there is no prejudice regarding the intelligence of bald men.
But all the experts agree that judgements arrived at in an instant on the basis of prejudice are scarcely capable of doing justice to the person concerned.
Most of us are unable to "switch off" these prejudices, but understanding the basic ones could push the observer at least to take a second look at his subject.
Subject: German news