How Attractive Is Your Personality? (Part I)

Although it sounds like the hook in a romantic comedy, recent findings indicate that your inner beauty (or lack thereof) might be affecting your outer beauty.

Let me back up. A few months ago I was analyzing data from a large community sample and I stumbled upon some interesting information. Specifically, I found peer ratings of physical attractiveness on a sample of people who completed the Hogan personality and values assessments. Considering that I am (a) distractible and (b) a nerd, I decided to investigate further.

It’s important to note that these were not ratings of likeability, friendliness, etc. Peers rated the extent to which the target person was “good-looking,” “unattractive,” “physically attractive,” and “not good-looking.” So the question became: does one’s personality affect their perceived physical attractiveness? The answer, to an extent, is yes.

There were significant effects on seven of twenty-eight scales across the Hogan Personality Inventory, Hogan Development Survey, and Motives, Values, Preferences Inventory. I found positive correlations between ratings of physical attractiveness and scores on HPI Interpersonal Sensitivity, HDS Colorful, MVPI Affiliation, and MVPI Altruistic. Additionally, I found negative correlations between physical attractiveness and HDS Reserved, HDS Leisurely, and HDS Imaginative.

What does this mean in non-Hoganese? First, we are physically attracted to people who are nice, friendly, approachable, and considerate. No big surprise there; mean people are ugly (or is it that ugly people are mean because they are ugly?). Second, we are attracted to people who have a flair for the dramatic, drawing a lot of attention to themselves, and being the center of attention, even to a fault. These big personalities draw our eyes to them and we seem to find them attractive for that, even if they are acting in this way for self-serving reasons. Next, we find people who value networking, teamwork, collaboration, and social interaction physically attractive. This may indicate that we are attracted to people who have the inclination or desire to engage and get to know us. Finally, the altruists of our society are found to be attractive. These individuals are motivated by a concern for the welfare of others. The attraction is likely borne out of the perception that the person is taking a genuine interest and concern for our needs and well-being; perhaps a more generous lover?

Now let us turn our attention to our turn-offs. First, we are not fans of the cold, stoic, aloof types. These individuals appear indifferent to the feelings or concerns of others, so this finding is in alignment with the aforementioned factors of heightened attraction. Next, we find passive-aggressive behavior to be particularly unattractive. Although these individuals may appear friendly and cooperative on the surface, we seem to see through fa?ade and recognize that they are likely to act on their own agenda, which makes them less desirable. Finally, our eccentric visionaries are apparently persona non grata. Overall, results indicate that creativity is not related to attractiveness, but here we have an indication that extreme (and unconventional) creativity is actually a mild repellant.

These results come from a single (but large) community sample. Therefore, these are not necessarily universal truths. Nonetheless, the trends are clearly there and of mention. Also, the peers providing these ratings knew the target people, so there is no guarantee that these results would generalize to how attractive a stranger at a bar will find you. That being said, it is logical that personality affects physical attractiveness only at the point that someone gets to know us at least a little bit.

In summary, these results indicate that personality does have an impact on physical attractiveness. If you want to be perceived as attractive, stop acting like an inconsiderate jerk. Even if you have the face of Adonis (or Persephone), curt, brash, or uncaring behavior will likely downgrade your hotness factor.
The next installment on this topic dives into gender differences, explaining what it takes for men and women (separately) to be perceived as physically attractive. Sneak preview: there are clear differences and the results do not confirm what we may commonly assume…