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Good deeds enhance beauty, but beauty does not affect goodness of deeds

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Zhao, C., Brielmann, A., & Pelli, G. (2020). Good deeds enhance beauty, but beauty does not affect goodness of deeds. Journal of Vision, 20(11), 871.


Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0007-6B23-A
Abstract
The relation of morality to aesthetics matters in many fields, including social, perceptual, and cognitive psychology. Moral and aesthetic judgments mutually influence one another: People’s physical attractiveness influences how honest and trustworthy they appear, and people’s character influences how we judge their appearance. However, previous studies assessed people’s traits but neglected the behaviors associated with those traits. The current study aimed to explore the mutual influence between facial attractiveness and morality of the person’s actions. We used a photo-caption paradigm with two complementary tasks. In the beauty-rating task, we manipulated the morality of the behavior described in the caption (moral or immoral), and the participant rated the facial attractiveness of the actor in the photo; in the morality rating task, we manipulated facial attractiveness (attractive or unattractive), and the participant rated the morality of the behavior. We recruited 78 participants on Amazon Mechanical Turk. The results show that morality ratings do not differ for attractive (M = 2.99, SD = 0.56) versus unattractive faces (M = 2.95, SD = 0.56; t(54) = 0.25, p = 0.805). In contrast, attractiveness ratings are higher for actors described as behaving morally (M = 4.92, SD = 0.74) than for those described as behaving immorally (M = 3.82, SD = 0.93; t(52) = 4.76, p < 0.001). This means that the Halo Effect, i.e., more favorable judgment of an attractive person’s traits, does not extend to judgments of a person’s action. Apparently, attractiveness does not justify immoral behavior. Morality affects attractiveness, but attractiveness does not affect morality.