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Smith -

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Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization



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We investigate the unconscious influence of beauty on perceptions of commonly-sought employee traits. To do this, we develop a set of photos rated for “societal attractiveness” and use eye-tracking technology to measure participants' pupil sizes while they rate the same set of photos on perceived levels of competence, friendliness, and trustworthiness. We find that the same autonomic response to attractiveness occurs even when participants are asked to rate individuals on traits other than attractiveness. Each additional millimeter of pupil dilation results in about a seven percentage point increase in the perception of rated characteristics. Our data also suggest that societal and personal perceptions of beauty are substitutes rather than complements. These findings contribute to our understanding of the unconscious biases underlying the beauty premium and highlight the importance of considering both personal and societal perceptions of beauty in evaluating individuals. These results are important for labor market outcomes and suggest the need for further research on the unconscious role of beauty in shaping economic opportunities.


This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Elsevier in Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization on [November 15, 2023], available online:

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Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

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