The Influence of Physical Attractiveness

The original development of Social Psychology was intended to identify basic principles of behavior that affect people around the world. Studies conducted in this perspective often relate to human behaviors that apply to all humans. The study that was replicated by the researchers deals with the halo effect (John E. Stewart III, 1980). This effect states that physical attractiveness has advantage over those that are less attractive. The halo effect builds around the belief that more beautiful people are thought to have beautiful personalities and possess other socially desirable characteristics.

The study that the researchers are going to replicate was from a study conducted by Sigall & Ostrove (1975). In their experiment their hypothesis stated that more attractive people would receive less time sentenced in jail. This study and the theory that it was based upon all support the researcher’s hypothesis. Another study, which supports the prediction in the research hypothesis, is a study done by John Stewart III (1980).

In his observational study he studied the amount of time an attractive person was sentenced and the time that a less attractive person was sentenced. In his study he concluded that the more attractive the defendant the shorter of time the defendant was sentenced to jail. The study done by (Benson, Karabenick, and Lerner, 1976) also support the fact that physical attractiveness has distinct advantages over the less attractive. In their study they left filled in college application in phone booths with either an attractive picture or an unattractive picture. At the end of the study they concluded that more attractive people had a higher percentages rate in the amount of applications returned to them. This clearly shows that more attractive people receive more help.

The issue that was investigated deal with the halo effect (John E. Stewart III, 1980) and how it affects human behavior. The researcher believed that people who are considered to be more attractive receive advantages in juridical judgment over the less attractive. This topic is important to understand so people can have a better understanding when judging people. Justification must be brought to make sure that every individual must be tried equally in a court.

This issue was investigated by conducting a study on high school students in their junior year. They were asked to determine how many years the defendant should be sentenced to prison. Two identical cases were matched with either an attractive person or an unattractive person. The results from the experiment provided the support for the research hypothesis. After reading the results of the studies done by previous psychologists the researcher has predicted that defendants that are less attractive will receive longer sentences to jail compared to the more attractive.


The experimental method was used and the design was based on independent samples. The reason the experimental method was chosen is because this will provide more accurate and reliable results. The experimental method was also easier to carry out. Independent sample was chosen because it will provide the most accurate results for the experiment. A mathematical mean was easy to obtain by averaging the results from independent samples. Ethical considerations such as giving informed consent, the right to withdrawal, debriefing, and also the anonymity of the participants had all be taken into account to ensure that the experiment was ethical. The independent variable was the attractiveness (attractive, unattractive) of the picture that was matched with the crime. The dependent variable was the amount of years in prison the defendant was sentenced.


In the study it was decided by the researcher that there would be a sample size of thirty males in their junior year of high school with a mean age of 17. These students did not have any previous affiliations with any psychology courses. The population from which the sample was taken was from the junior class of an American school in Taipei, Taiwan. The selection procedure consisted of numbering a class list from numbers 1-94 and then using a Texas Instrument-83 random number generator, the list of 30 males in the junior year of high school was compiled. First pictures of attractive/unattractive pictures of women were found off the Internet ( and ( Males in the junior grade were then surveyed to see if they agreed to the attractiveness of the pictures.

After reaching an agreement the researchers then came up with a description of a crime. The description of the crime was then paired either with an attractive picture or an unattractive picture. Following this, the participants that were selected by the researchers previously were asked how many years the defendant is to be sentenced to jail. 10 participants will be asked to decide the amount of years to be sentenced to the attractive picture while the 10 other participants will be asked to decide the amount of years to be sentenced to the unattractive picture.

The last 10 participants were asked to determine the amount of years the suspect was to be sentenced in jail without a picture of the suspect. The mean of the years sentenced from the three groups was then calculated. Writing an informed consent with a description of the study without revealing what was being tested solved ethical issues that had to be dealt with. This consent was the same for all participants. After the experiment the participants was then debriefed by a sheet detailing what was done and why. This sheet was also the same for all participants.

Results Description of Results: The results were organized into three groups with 10 participants from each of the groups (control, attractive, unattractive). N=30 The results from the experiment showed that the mean amount of years the participants decided to sentence the less attractive suspect was greater compared to the mean number of years sentenced to the attractive suspect. The mean number of years that the participants decided to sentence the less attractive suspect was 4.5 years compared to the 3.85 years for the attractive suspect. In the control group the mean number of years that the suspect should be sentenced was in between the attractive and unattractive groups at 4.1 years.

The mode, however, was greater in the unattractive compared to the mode of the attractive group. The mode in the unattractive group was 3 years in prison while the attractive group had a mode of 5 years in prison. The control group however was again in between the two groups with a mode of 4 years. The standard deviation in the attractive group and the unattractive group were very close with the attractive groups being more by 0.5. The graph above shows the mean number of years that the participants decided to sentence the suspects from the corresponding groups. It can be seen from above that the results support the researcher’s hypothesis that attractiveness does affect the amount of prison years sentenced.

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