Are beautiful people also more intelligent?

By Thomas Hally


sarah_silverman4001Dr. Satoshi Kanazawa is an evolutionary psychologist at the London School of Economics. He and his colleague, Jody L. Kovar, took on the task of writing a book on about the relationship between beauty and general intelligence entitled: Why Beautiful People are More Intelligent.

Many sociologists and social psychologists are convinced of the old adages “Beauty is only skin deep” and “Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder.” According to Kanazawa and Kovar, these sociologists and clinicians dismiss the widespread perception that beauty correlates highly with intelligence as “bias,” “stereotyping,” or the “halo effect”—which is a phenomenon that occurs when one is influenced by a person’s strengths, weaknesses, physical appearance, behavior, or any other single factor.

The conclusion that beautiful people are more intelligent is drawn from four assumptions:

1) Men who are more intelligent are likely to attain higher status than men who are less intelligent; 2) Higher status men are more likely to mate with more beautiful women than lower status men; 3) Intelligence is heritable; 4) Beauty is heritable.

If these four assumptions are true, then it logically follows that beautiful people are, indeed, more intelligent than their less attractive peers. The conclusion makes the correlation between beauty and intelligence a theorem.

Kanazawa and Kovar also claim that there is a general consensus in the judgment of beauty. The degree of Western media exposure seems to have no influence on people’s perception of beauty. As an example, look at the racial and ethnic diversity of the winners of the annual Miss Universe and Miss World competitions. Standards of beauty appear to be innate rather than arbitrary, culturally specific, and idiosyncratic, and they are an integral part of human nature.

There is even a computer program which has the ability to digitally average human faces, assigning a single score for physical attractiveness and correlating these scores with scores assigned by human judges. Beauty, therefore, appears to be an objective and quantitative attribute of individuals like height and weight.

According to the theorem’s authors, there is a correlation between beauty and intelligence through assortive mating. More intelligent men are likely to be more attractive than less intelligent men, and good-looking women are likely to be smarter than “not-so-good-looking” women. If the combination of beauty and intelligence is inherited from both parents, the extrinsic correlation between beauty and intelligence in children will be even stronger than if intelligence is heritable only through the father and beauty is inherited through only the mother.

Kanazawa and Kovar explain that their theory is purely deductive and not a comprehensive description of complex reality; it therefore leaves out much of what they posit as fact. They believe that their theorem is purely scientific and logical, but it is not a prescription of how to treat or judge others.

If their assumptions are logically a “theorem,” PhDs and other highly educated people should be absolutely gorgeous. These assumptions are, however, uniform and rigid. It is sometimes painfully obvious that PhDs run the same gamut of physical attractiveness as the rest of humanity. Yet if it is a fact that attractive people usually have greater self-confidence than unattractive people this “fact” may, at times, account for their higher wages.

An individual’s perceived beauty may be correlated with self esteem and therefore have an independent effect on earnings and assumed high intelligence. The strongest support seems to point to discrimination on the part of the employer on the basis of taste. The relationship between attractiveness and intelligence is generally positive but highly non-linear, with positive association declining at medium levels of intelligence and flattening out.

Dorota Rabczewska, aka Doda Electoda, was ranked as Poland’s second most beautiful woman in 2007. Formally a singer with the band “Virgin,” she has since become a solo act. When she joined Mensa in 2004 her IQ was, reputedly, measured at 156. Albert Einstein immediately comes to mind as an exception tothe rule.” With long, bushy hair, giving him a seeming clown-like appearance, he nevertheless had the confidence and intellect to become one of the greatest geniuses in the history of science.

As the story goes, Irish playwright and 1925 Nobel Prize winner in literature, George Bernard Shaw, was asked the following question by his lover, dancer, Isadora Duncan: “With my body and your brains what a wonder it [our child] would be. “Yes, replied Shaw, “but what if it had my body and your brains?”

The measuring of intelligence and other variables such as beauty, height, etc., is a fundamental research endeavor among social psychologists and evolutionary psychologists alike, stirring the interest of scholars and causing much controversy. The Kanazawa-Kovar claim is curiously attractive yet theoretically suspect because the greater body of evidence does not support it.

And you, dear reader, have you been taken in by Kanazawa and Kovar or do you have an open mind?

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