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The Price of Being Beautiful: Negative Effects of Attractiveness on Empathy for Children in Need

Robert J. Fisher and Yu Ma

Journal of Consumer Research, 2014, vol. 41, issue 2, 436 - 450

Abstract: The research examines how the attractiveness of children in need affects the empathy they evoke and the subsequent help they receive from unrelated adults. The authors find that attractive children are attributed desirable characteristics related to social competence, which is consistent with the "beautiful is good" stereotype. Ironically, the authors find that these attributions reduce the empathy evoked by attractive children and the help they receive from unrelated adults as long as their need is not severe. These effects are demonstrated in four experiments. The research identifies a significant cost of being beautiful and an important exception to the beautiful is good stereotype. The results also have practical implications for how children are portrayed in promotional materials for disaster relief agencies, children's hospitals, and other charities.

Date: 2014
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