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Will society ever get rid of Lookism?

  1. Jan 19, 2015 #1
    Martin Luther King Jr's dream of people being judged by their character and not color of their skin has mostly been fulfilled, or at least everybody seem to be working for it.

    But what about people being judged by their Looks? Will people ever be able to forgo looks altogether in choosing romantic partners? I wonder why society puts so much value on looks, and fashion and all those outwardly things?
    I think much of these judgments arise because elements of good looks like being well dressed and fashionable, being fit etc is associated with other good traits like health consciousness, intelligence, social skills etc. But, not every aspect can be linked like that; e.g. height, bodily build-up.
    I haven't seen much discrimination based on Looks, except in romantic relationship where it seem to play a big role. Will society ever loose the demarcation of 'pretty/attractive' and 'not pretty/attractive' ? I understand that there is no universal definition of what is 'pretty' and what is not; each man seem to have his own definition. My belief is that it will be better for humanity to lose that definition.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 19, 2015 #2
    Would you date somebody that was 600lbs but "nice"?
  4. Jan 19, 2015 #3


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    Will we ever lose it? I doubt it.

    Will it change? I can guarantee it.

    The anthropology of it is that we need to make decisions about people all the time. Do I trust this person enough to walk by them? Should I talk to that person? Which person do I sit next to on the bus? Under ideal circumstances you might way to offer the benefit of the doubt to everyone, you might want to take the time to get to know someone before deciding whether that person is someone you want to approach romantically, or professionally or even casually. But the reality is that you're constrained by time and your own energy. Visual input conveys a lot of information for humans, and this allows us to make the quick decisions we need to make to go about life. So moving beyond that is going to be incredibly difficult and costly, and with minimal payout.

    I might add though that over the last generation or so we've seen some very huge changes. Consider internet-based dating for example. There are lots of examples of people starting relationships now that have been enabled by text-based connections that convey no visual information. Of course, there are also a lot of "horror stories" that come along with those - stories of misrepresentation. But the fact is that we're changing. Perhaps eventually we may have a subset of people, enabled by technology, that make judgements based entirely off of the choices that a person makes in how to represent themselves... the style of avatar the chose, the issues that person choses to take on, the degree of empathy or compassion a person shares with you...but even then, I suspect there will still be a baseline degree of judgement that is made based on a person's appearance, even if that appearance is artificial.
    Last edited: Jan 19, 2015
  5. Jan 19, 2015 #4


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    There is logic to mate selection based on looks. There is a corellation between looks and health (in particular, weight). So no, it isn't ever going to go away completely.
  6. Jan 20, 2015 #5


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    I admire your optimism but not your powers of observation.
  7. Jan 20, 2015 #6
    At the end of the day, physical appearance is just a factor of charisma. And people who are more charismatic will naturally have an easier time getting people to like them, listen to them, etc. This is all deeply rooted in human biology: mates are selected based on signs of health to optimize chances of reproductive success (offspring will have healthy genes and capable caretakers) and people are more empathetic to attractive people even if they do not have sexual interest because having healthier people in the group means they get the benefit of having healthier members and better genes in the group. So as a simple component of the most basic part of the human condition, some things will always be more attractive and appealing. Ignoring physical appearance in romance or, really, most social interaction would be like ignoring taste in deciding which foods we like.

    Is it fair that some people are better-looking than others, and as a result may have an easier time with romantic and social success based on animal-brain caveman instincts? Absolutely not, but sadly, that's just the way the world is.

    Now, there is definitely a social component, and that could change and there is room for improvement. Women are judged much more harshly for their appearance than men are, for instance, and that's not fair when it comes to how those judgments factor into areas like employment. Social ideals can influence what is considered attractive: for example, in the middle ages being a bit "chunkier" and paler than what is these days considered attractive was a sign that one was wealthy enough to have a surplus of food and able to spend their days indoors rather than working outside. These days things there have taken a complete 180: athletic builds are ideal because they represent an active and energetic personality, and they (to an extent) indicate wealth because the person can afford healthy food and to take time off to exercise.

    So perhaps it may change even more in the future. But I doubt it will ever go away. Because at the end of the day, a key factor is also rarity. Anyone who's been to college has seen hundreds or even thousands of classmates that would be extremely attractive on paper, but it's rare to notice it in someone unless that person has some kind of uniqueness.

    Besides, would you want social brainwashing to take away your ability to judge whether you like something or not in regards to how it appeals to you?
  8. Jan 20, 2015 #7
    Physical appearance and charisma are two different things. Ugly people can be very charismatic and pretty people can have absolutely no charisma.
  9. Jan 20, 2015 #8
    of course it's better to be good looking with charisma :-p
  10. Jan 20, 2015 #9
    Either because of biological hard wiring or/and societal conditioning, people will prefer certain things over others. And this includes the characteristics that they would like in a potential lover.
    Since both looks and personality are just characteristics (even though the latter is generally the one that determines, for the most part, the quality and duration of the relationship), to me, asking to not be judged by looks is like asking to not be judged by personality.
    Looks is also the first thing that people will notice about someone and one of the things that define a person in the eyes (and the mind) of the others; so i would say that the prospect that it will not matter anymore, is not realistic (and probably not even very positive).
  11. Jan 22, 2015 #10
    Having this as a factor in relationships is something I can live with.

    What bothers me is how it plays roles in things like job interviews. You can argue that someone who looks nice is probably a nicer person and will be better for morale in the workplace, etc...
    But those are logical arguments and certainly fine if, say an employer, were to actually think that way. But in most cases in life where that sort of judgement happens it's really just because the person is being lazy and instead of properly analyzing the situation they allow appearances and their gut instinct to do the work for them.

    [EDIT]Pretty sure the same thing applies to relationships actually. There's so many potential partners it's hard to consider everyone. It's just easier to assume that the best looking people are the ones who will make you the happiest, even though that's not necessarily true.[/EDIT]
  12. Jan 23, 2015 #11
    I think that there is not much lawsuits in this subject, because one would admit being ugly. ;)

    Anyway, there is quite a lot of literature about it:

    "We report the findings of a meta-analytic review of experimental studies concerned with the biasing effect of physical attractiveness on a variety of job-related outcomes. In support of implicit personality theory, attractive individuals were found to fare better than unattractive individuals in terms of a number of such outcomes. The weighted mean effect size, d, was .37 for all studies. In addition, tests for moderating effects showed that (a) the attractiveness bias did not differ between studies that provided low versus high amounts of job-relevant information about the targets, (b) the same bias was greater for within-subjects research designs than for between-subjects designs, (c) professionals were as susceptible to the bias as were college students, (d) attractiveness was as important for men as for women, and (e) the biasing effect of attractiveness has decreased in recent years. Implications of these findings are considered."

  13. Jan 23, 2015 #12


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    I'd argue it's not as simple as that. How attractive someone is visually is rarely based on just their appearance alone. Behaviour, personality and social skills can influence how attractive someone seems. People can meet and not think the other person is good looking but after they get to know them and start liking them their opinion on that person's looks will change.
  14. Jan 23, 2015 #13
    Like Rosemary? I know two such cases IRL. In one case a skinny guy married a girl twice of his weight. :-p
  15. Jan 23, 2015 #14
    I'd agree. It's my experience that people are very much affected by other people's personalities when assessing how attractive they are but often without consciously realizing it. If we're attracted by alluring aspects of their personality, we'll upgrade our assessment of their looks.

    In fact, I think we make more judgements about people's personalities from external clues than we ever realize, and mistake those judgements to be judgements about their "looks"; assessments about their posture, the way they move, the way they dress, the mood they seem to be in, vocal inflections, how comfortable they are in the environment, their general level of vigor. I think of this range of things as "textural" considerations. People's personalities exhibit a texture that you can observe without even talking to them, and others are affected by it, as such, and experience a response to it, whether they realize it or not. But some conflate and confuse it with physical attractiveness. Possibly because this range of personality properties is divorced from the kind of informational content we've been taught to think of as constituting "personality". They don't tell us anything about the person's political views or their taste in literature, etc. so it's easy to miss that these things are personality traits and to lump to them inarticulately with aspects of the person's "looks."
  16. Jan 23, 2015 #15
    Then you're talking about things that are attractive about them other than looks. Notice we were specifically talking about physical appearance.
  17. Jan 23, 2015 #16


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    That's my point: attraction changes ones perception of physical appearance.
  18. Jan 23, 2015 #17


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    Is the next thread going to be about some other madeup trigger word like "intelligencism"?
  19. Jan 23, 2015 #18


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    Oh, you wouldn't want the society to ever get rid of intelligencism, you clever bastard you. ;)
  20. Jan 24, 2015 #19
    I'd imagine that for the vast majority of folks those are more than second order effects around some median degree of physical attractiveness.
  21. Jan 24, 2015 #20
    When we're all composed of equations or dancing waves of personality matrices (if it is possible ie if we have no body). New kinds of demarcation would likely arise, but likely would fade with time.
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