Baby Wearing GlassesPeople perceive others as good leaders or good negotiators based on their looks, according to a study by a university in Amsterdam discussed in Science Daily. Brian Spisak of the VU University Amsterdam and his colleagues studied implicit preferences for traits of leaders, such as health, intelligence and attractiveness and how they look for these qualities in the physical appearance of others.

Facial traits provide a lot of information about individuals.

  • Those with caring and cooperative personalities are statistically more likely to have a more “feminine” face, due to higher estrogen levels,
  • Aggressive risk-takers tend to have higher testosterone levels and more “masculine” faces.

Researchers asked 148 people to imagine they were selecting a CEO for a company.

  • They had to repeatedly pick between two photos of male faces.
  • With each choice participants were given a job description stating the CEO’s main challenge.
  • The challenges included: compete aggressively, renegotiate a deal with another company, lead the company into a new market or oversee a stable, sustained exploitation of non-renewable energy.
  • In each choice, both photos were of the same man but his face was digitally transformed so he appeared more or less intelligent while his complexion changed to make him appear more or less healthy.

Healthy Looking vs. Intelligent Looking

There was a general preference for a healthy look than one of intelligence.

  • Participants chose more healthy-looking faces over less healthy-looking faces in 69% of trials no matter the challenge the fictional CEO would face.
  • More intelligent-looking faces were only preferred over less intelligent-looking faces when the CEO job required the most diplomacy and inventiveness: negotiation and exploring the new market.

This study suggests that if you want others to look at you as intelligent, thus good at negotiating and being creative (it’s pretty much impossible to be a good negotiator without being creative), an article in the Atlantic magazine suggests,

  • Leave the contact lenses at home. The College of Optometrists in the United Kingdom in 2011 claimed that 43% of the people it surveyed believe glasses make a person look more intelligent.
  • Being beautiful won’t hurt. A Czech study found that narrow faces, long noses and thin chins correlated with both perceived intelligence and attractiveness.
  • Walk at the same pace as those around you. Subjects in one study rated a person moving faster or slower than “normal human walking speed” as less competent and intelligent.

Whether you’re negotiating with another party, or trying to be retained by a possible client so you can get the job of negotiator, if your complexion needs some work, it may pay to get some help from a dermatologist. Wear glasses and if you’re walking with the party you’re negotiating  with or with the person who may hire you, make sure you walk with the person, don’t race ahead or fall behind.

If you’re naturally blessed with an “intelligent” and “beautiful” face, all the better. If not, whether you think plastic surgery will be worth it is up to you.