Published: Jan. 6, 2020

Applicant attractiveness is often positively related to success in job attainment but can act as a hindrance for women in some cases, creating a subtle form of gender bias. When attractive women apply for masculine jobs the femininity of their appearance seems incompatible with the masculinity required by the job and they are judged negatively (the beauty is beasty effect). Little research has explored factors that accentuate or attenuate negative evaluations of attractive female job candidates. In a series of studies, we find that the composition of the applicant pool can also impact views of attractive female applicants. In both masculine and gender neutral job types having another attractive woman on the finalist slate mitigated the beauty is beastly effect. Mediation analysis suggests that the dominance heuristic explains the effect such that having two attractive female candidates sets the norm of attractiveness and creates the perception that the attractive candidate dominates the unattractive candidate in all ways. Likewise, even for a gender neutral job, having only one attractive candidate sets the norm of unattractiveness and activates the beauty is beastly effect. The findings shed light on gender bias and the importance of context in selection.

Johnson, S. K., & Chan, E. (2019). Can looks deceive you? Attractive decoys mitigate beauty is beastly bias against women. Archives of Scientific Psychology, 7(1), 60-70.

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