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.
15 Pages Posted: 26 Aug 2014
Date Written: August 24, 2014
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
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