Monday, January 24, 2011

Muscular Men and Thin Women Earn Fatter Paycheques: Study

Yikes, this isn't good. As if people need more reasons to conform to society's unrealistically high standards of attractiveness, a new study suggests that in the workplace, men and women who fit the 'right' physical standards earn more over all.

In the study, it was found that men and women who fit particular stereotypes associated with success, leadership, strength, discipline and good health were more likely to be paid more than their average counterparts. In this case, thin women and more muscular men were found to earn more per year, whereas obese individuals were identified in the study as "undisciplined, dishonest and less likely to do productive work."earned less. Ouch.

It's nothing new that society favours physically attractive people. The thing that changes is what exactly those standards of beauty and perfection are. Unfortunately, these days, skinny women are favoured over their more fuller-figured counterparts and bigger, stronger men are favoured over 'average' ones. From an evolutionary standpoint, we are hard-wired to 'prefer' physically attractive people and project positive characteristics upon them. They must be nice, and fun and hard-working, right?

It should be noted that stereotypes aren't always bad; simply put, they are the result of our brains trying to make life easier for us. With so much information coming at us at any given time, we are forced to group concepts together in order to facilitate decision making and understanding. However, as you can see, this can be helpful at times, while at other times it is most definitely harmful. So, how you interpret the findings of this latest study is entirely based on what context you're considering.

If you consider the monetary aspect within the findings of the study - earning more money- then sure, 'looking the part' might do that for you. However, from a social aspect and even with regards to health (both mental and physical), suggesting that women need to be thin and men need to be husky and strong to get ahead can have some serious negative effects. The same goes with identifying non-conformers as being lazy or poorly suited for their jobs.

These inaccurate stereotypes continue to be perpetuated whether we realize it or not. The only thing we can do is consciously try to re-wire our associations with people's physical features and pay closer attention to what's on the inside in order to make our judgments of them. In the workplace, hard work, skills and contributions should be rewarded, not physical appearance.