14 November 2011
Revealed: why looks do matter
by George Atkinson
Rice University and the University of Houston researchers now know why people with birthmarks, scars and other facial disfigurements are more likely to receive poor ratings in job interviews. Their study, published in the Journal of Applied Psychology, shows that interviewers recalled less information about these candidates, which negatively impacted evaluations of the applicants.
"When evaluating applicants in an interview setting, it's important to remember what they are saying," Rice psychologist Mikki Hebl said. "Our research shows if you recall less information about competent candidates because you are distracted by characteristics on their face, it decreases your overall evaluations of them."
"When looking at another person during a conversation, your attention is naturally directed in a triangular pattern around the eyes and mouth," University of Houston co-researcher Juan Madera said. "We tracked the amount of attention outside of this region and found that the more the interviewers attended to stigmatized features on the face, the less they remembered about the candidate's interview content, and the less memory they had about the content led to decreases in ratings of the applicant."
"The bottom line is that how your face looks can significantly influence the success of an interview," Hebl summarized. "There have been many studies showing that specific groups of people are discriminated against in the workplace, but this study takes it a step further, showing why it happens. The allocation of attention away from memory for the interview content explains this."
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Source: Rice University