Looks: Why They Matter, A Critical Review

In his book “Looks: Why They Matter” Gordon Patzers analyzes importance of appearance in our life. The author explores different spheres of life and investigates how much looks influences them. The name of the book is very informative and gives insight into its content. The author does not doubt the importance and sometimes crucial role of appearance in our life and shares his investigations with his readers.

The author gives interesting facts in order to prove his thesis. Our appearance influences all spheres of our life.

On the first sight, the theme of appearance seems so hackneyed and investigated that it does not worth attention. Every day you read about appearance in different magazines. However, Dr. Patzer investigates this theme in a new light and from both scientific and psychological points of view. In his book he writes:” Sometimes termed ”˜lookism’ – treating people in ways biased by their perceived individual level of physical attractiveness – the `physical attractiveness (PA)’ phenomenon has been studied in depth for decades by social scientists of many disciplines, including psychologists, sociologists, biologists, and anthropologists” (Patzer). This book is the result of Patzer’s own investigations and researches in the sphere of so-called “lookism”. He has worked on this theme for about 30 years and collected all his thoughts in his book under the name “Looks: Why They Matter More Than You Ever Imagined”.  He is the Dean of Chicago’s Roosevelt University and at the same time he is considered to be the Founder and the Director of the Appearance Phenomenon Institute, so he can present his professional and personal in the book.

Patzer’s book consists of 10 chapters which are divided thematically. Different chapters of the book describe different sphere of life where appearance plays an extremely important role. The first chapter is called “Older Than Civilization”, the second is entitled “Pass the Genes, Please: How Looks Drive Dating, Courtship, and Marriage”, the name of the third is “As the Twig Is Bent: How Physical Attractiveness Affects Family Dynamics”, the fourth has a title “Readin’, Ritin’, Rithmetic, n ”˜Ridicule”, the fifth is known as “The Job Is Looking Good; Rendering Judgment: How Looks Affect Courtroom Results”. Chapter number six is called “Physiognomy and Public Service”, while number seven is named “Seeing Is Believing”. The eighth chapter you can find under the name “The Dark Side of Physical Attractiveness”.

The ninth chapter has a title “What Price for Good Looks? The Big Business of Beauty” and the Epilogue is called “Rising Above the Effects of Lookism”. In this way, step by step readers can discover all secrets of appearance, get acquainted with its methods and technologies and use this secret weapon at the workplace.

The author uses a plain and informative language which makes the book appropriate for all people either they are researchers and scientists or common people interested in this subject.

Unconsciously our appearance influences all our life beginning from the birth and ending with the death. Patzer states: “Almost from the moment of birth, each of us is judged­ – silently, unconsciously, and nearly instantly – on the basis of everything that goes into the mix of qualities known as `physical attractiveness” (Patzer 2008, 45). The phenomenon of PA is a necessary attribute of the process of socialization. Due to the index of PA people easier or harder start their communication with other people. We may million times repeat that appearance means nothing and the only thing that is truly important is the inner essence, however, unconsciously we judge a person for the first time for his or her appearance. It is not accidentally that the first impression is based on the person’s physical attractiveness and only then we start analyze other aspects of his or her personality.

Appearance is also a way to influence people. So called “halo effect” is created by physical attractiveness and influences the way we perceive other people. Subconsciously people believe that beautiful people possess such qualities as intelligence, kindness, talent and honesty. We like people, who compliment us. We also like people, who resemble us.  During any kind of elections people tend to choose candidates, who resemble themselves. This way they give their will and opportunity to decide to those, who remind them of themselves. Unfortunately, our schools create an atmosphere of competition. This gives little opportunities for different children to make friends and cooperate.

The author defines symbols of authority, which are titles, clothes and trappings. Titles, such as doctor or professor have mesmerizing effect on people. Uniform in any cases serves as a mean to distinguish one group from another. Trappings include jewelry, expansive cars and other distinguishing features, can give information about the high position of their owner.

People associate the type of information they perceive with the carrier of this information. They like people, who bring them good news and they will dislike a TV reporter, who warns them about a coming storm. This way they also try to associate themselves with successful people.

Sport fans are perfect example of people, who associate themselves with positive achievements and success.

What is notable, Gordo Patzer investigates the role of physical appearance from different perspectives. He explores effects of physical appearance and physical beauty for men and women and studies the difference. Physical appearance in very important at the workplace.

People who have attractive appearance are more likely to get high position when them compete with people who have less attractive looks.

The author of the book states that even professional HR managers with years of experience can not ignore appearance and make their final decision influence by the appearance of the candidates. “Hiring-the-handsome is a routine practice among even seasoned HR pros who sincerely believe they are able to ignore such superficialities as an applicant’s PA.  That’s because they think the person with high PA is actually better qualified or, if not, will nevertheless turn into a better employee” (Patzer 2008, 117).

Statistic proves that more attractive men get higher positions and earn more than their less attractive counterparts. These can be explained mainly by their appearance. “Evidence from studies conducted in the United States, Canada, and China suggests that employees with high PA enjoy earnings of between 7.5 and 15 percent more than their average-looking peers” (Patzer 2008, 103).

Standards of male and female beauty are different. Height is one of the parameters which contributes of the good physical appearance of men. Tall men are more likely to satisfy contemporary standards of beauty. Tall men are more likely to become leaders. Tall height is often associated with power and good organizational skills. “Perceived as more effective, tall men enjoy a commanding edge on performance ratings and promotions over their short peers.  Tall men also tend to earn higher incomes” (Patzer 2008, 79).  Employers make their subconscious choice and choose taller employees. Moreover, tall men earn more money and statistic proves this. “According to one study, every inch over average (which for an adult male American is a bit over 5′ 9”) means an annual paycheck bonus of some $789” (Patzer 2008, 9). Interdependence between salary and height is especially strong in the sphere of management, though in other professions it can be traced as well.

In some cases beauty can have negative effect on job opportunities. For example, beautiful women who look for professions  which require masculine qualities have less chances to get the position. In this case their beautiful appearance becomes a problem. In addition, female employers are reluctant to hire female employees who are more attractive than they are. The situation is totally different with male employers. They try to hire beautiful women. “While male employers are usually eager to hire a beautiful woman for a job that depends on face-to-face contact with clients, from receptionist to dietician, female employers are usually reluctant” (Patzer 2008, 98). Moreover, if women who have good PA reach success in their career this success is often attributed to luck and happy coincidence than to their persistence and effort.

Employers try to hire more attractive people because they believe that this can bring success to their companies. In many cases statistics proves this thesis. According to the research performed in Holland companies who have better-looking personnel earn more money and have high billing revenue. Experts also calculated that good looking employees brought higher income to their companies.

Even parents treat their children differently because of the way these children look. “Social scientists have shown that parents invest differently in each child, according to his or her perceived health and fitness, quality, reproductive potential, and, not least of all, physical attractiveness” (Patzer 2008, 118). These means that children who look better get more parental care and attention. They also have better chances to succeed in school than less attractive do. Moreover, mothers of more attractive babies dedicate more time to their children. They more eagerly play with their children and in general they spend more time with them.  Appearance of children influences maternal feelings of their mothers. “After observing mothers interacting with their firstborn infants, the researchers also concluded that even attentive, conscientious mothers of less attractive infants perceived their children as interfering more in their lives than did the mothers of more attractive infants” (Patzer 2008, 108).  If even parents  are influenced by the appearance of their children there is no need to say that all other people also treat more and less beautiful children differently.  Neonatal nurses dedicate more attention and care to beautiful babies.

Even small children make their choices based on appearance. If small children are given a choice they usually select more attractive playmates even if they are not acquainted with them.  Children also attribute better qualities to more beautiful children.  They believe that better-looking children are more friendly, nice, generous and sweet.

Beautiful people enjoy not only better career opportunities. Beautiful people enjoy different benefits thanks to their appearance since their childhood. Beautiful children get higher grades, get more presents and lead more active social life. It is also a proved fact that teachers believe that children who look better perform in study better as well. Generally teachers are more patient and dedicate more attention to the children with better looks. As a result  children with better PA really start performing better in some time. Moreover, when more and less attractive students receive same grades teachers tend to believe that more attractive students will do better in the future. “Even more disturbing, science confirms that, typically, a teacher’s first impressions and reaction to a new pupil are influenced by that child’s overall physical characteristics””so already self-conscious, less attractive children enter this vital learning relationship with at least one strike against them” (Patzer 2008, 116). All these facts proved by research data very clearly signifies that our lives to great extend are conditioned by our looks and this process starts from our birth.

In Chapter 6 the author reveals what role plays the appearance in jury boxes, courtrooms and chambers. He stresses that the importance of appearance was not discovered only in the 21st century but it was well known many years ago.

The author gives us evidence from the trial of the year 1929. He describes a trial of Alender Pantages who was accused of raping Eunice Pringle. Panhates was over sixty, while Pringle was only seventeen. On the first trial the girl appeared in a long beautiful dress and looked as an angel. There was not evidence of the crime committed, so for the second trial the girl was asked to dress up as she was in the day of the rape. “When Pringle returned to court the schoolgirl was gone. In her place was a sexy young thing in an adult hairstyle, full makeup, and a clinging, low-cut dress that accentuated every lush curve””an irresistible, full-bodied young woman with the face of an angel” (Patzer 2008, 203). Looking at Pringle and Pantages’ reaction nobody had doubts that he was guilty. He was convinced and then sent to the prison.

However, in a couple of years it appeared that Pringle acted this drama out and there was no rape. He mysterious forty-years’ love persuaded her to do it in order to get rid of Pantages and earn money. This story proves one more time that appearance is the most convincing argument even in the court.

The author also analyzes deep reasons of global preoccupation with PA. He explores ugliness as opposed to beauty and describes how people who do not have good appearance miss many chances in their lives. The author also explores different reasons which resulted in the great meaning appearance has in our society. Dr. Patzer believes that Mass Media and advertising industry had a great impact on the development of contemporary standards of beauty. Cosmetic industry and plastic surgery  as well as contemporary pop culture earns great money on propaganda of beautiful appearance and gradually it becomes a subconscious pattern for all people. Different corporations earn money on propaganda of beauty ideals and this greatly contributes to overall obsession with physical appearance. The author warns that attitude to beauty loudly advertised in the contemporary society can become ruining for the society itself. Victims of different diets, bulimia and plastic surgery are only several examples of negative impact of contemporary standards of beauty. The author also investigates  deeper roots of great power of PA. In reality PA has always been a natural tool to choose good mate which would enable the couple to have healthy children.

Physical beauty and healthy looks appeals to our natural instincts and they are crucially important for mating and reproduction.

Facts and data provided by the author are impressive. Even people who know about the importance of PA in our life will be impressed by the scope of this influence. This information gives new keys to understanding of motifs of human behavior. Physical beauty possesses great power and has a significant impact on people. Beautiful people enjoy many benefits their less attractive counterparts do not have.

Physical appearance shapes out the life of people. Usually people become preoccupied with their looks when they want to find a partner and create a serious relationship. For many people it seems that physical appearance is important only for personal relations. In reality appearance determines the lives of people since their births.

The author has made a great research in this sphere and in accordance with his observations good-looking people always have privileges beginning from the maternity hospital and ending with job promotion. It was figured out (and the statistics prove it!) that good-looking pupils have better notes, beautiful babies have more care and attention and that nice people are easier promoted.

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