New research published in Frontiers in Psychology shows that a person’s perceived trustworthiness is, for better or worse, linked to how good-looking we find them — something that even holds true for young children.
The underlying phenomenon, referred to by scientists as the “beauty stereotype”, has actually been around for a while. Essentially, it means that people generally considered attractive are assumed to not only be more trustworthy, but also to be smarter and more successful as well.
But the new research reveals that children hold this stereotype as well. In fact, the new study claims that attractiveness might factor into how children form their all-important first impressions of people they meet.
To prove this, researchers at Wenzhou Medical University in China studied 130 children, ages 8, 10, and 12 years old, comparing their reactions to a large number of faces.
The researchers used a face generation program to produce images of 200 male faces, each with a neutral expression. The participants were then asked to rate the trustworthiness of each face. A month later, the participants were asked to rate the attractiveness of the same faces.
Ultimately, the study found that the faces the children rated most attractive were also the faces that they found most trustworthy. Furthermore, the researchers found that as children get older, the link between perceived attractiveness and perceived trustworthiness only strengthens.
Because of either culture or biology (probably both), children, like adults, factor in beauty when evaluating a person’s character.