The Price of Being Beautiful: Negative Effects of Attractiveness on Empathy for Children in Need

Fisher, Robert J. and Yu Ma (2014), “The Price of Being Beautiful: Negative Effects of Attractiveness on Empathy for Children in Need,” Journal of Consumer Research, (41) 2, 436-450.

University of Alberta School of Business Research Paper No. 2486251

15 Pages Posted: 26 Aug 2014

See all articles by Robert Fisher

Robert Fisher

University of Alberta - Department of Marketing, Business Economics & Law

Yu Ma

Independent

Date Written: August 24, 2014

Abstract

The research examines how the attractiveness of children in need affects the empathy they evoke and the subsequent help they receive from unrelated adults. We find that attractive children are attributed desirable characteristics related to social competence, which is consistent with the beautiful is good stereotype. Ironically, we find that these attributions reduce the empathy evoked by attractive children and the help they receive from unrelated adults as long as their need is not severe. We demonstrate these effects in four experiments. The research identifies a significant cost of being beautiful and an important exception to the beautiful is good stereotype. The results also have practical implications for how children are portrayed in promotional materials for disaster relief agencies, children’s hospitals, and other charities.

Keywords: attractiveness, beautiful is good stereotype, empathy, helping

Suggested Citation

Fisher, Robert and Ma, Yu, The Price of Being Beautiful: Negative Effects of Attractiveness on Empathy for Children in Need (August 24, 2014). Fisher, Robert J. and Yu Ma (2014), “The Price of Being Beautiful: Negative Effects of Attractiveness on Empathy for Children in Need,” Journal of Consumer Research, (41) 2, 436-450.; University of Alberta School of Business Research Paper No. 2486251. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2486251

Robert Fisher (Contact Author)

University of Alberta - Department of Marketing, Business Economics & Law ( email )

Edmonton, Alberta T6G 2R6
Canada

Yu Ma

Independent

No Address Available

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