Beautiful today, stupid tomorrow
By Adam Oppegaard
Many celebrities in the media are revered for their physical beauty such as Kim Ah-joong, Hyun Young, Moon Geun -young, etc. However many of them present themselves as unintelligent (more commonly among beautiful female entertainers than male). The reasons they do this is another discussion all together. The focus of this article is the potential connection between physical attractiveness and the lack of intelligence, and how society can promote its existence.
Everyone in American has heard of the stereotypical ``dumb blonde,” and sure, there are plenty of examples throughout entertainment history, predominately in the 20th century television and film (Marilyn Monroe, Anna Nicole Smith, Paris Hilton, Pamela Anderson, Jessica Simpson, etc) who fed off of and further facilitated this stereotype.
The stereotypes origins, however, may have come from a much more psychosocial dynamic rather than just an overgeneralization of people with a hair color originating from entertainment. I think the ``dumb blonde stereotype” is one example of the premise that what is considered beautiful today may eventually be associated with stupidity and lack of character in the future.
It seems human nature to desire positive feedback from others along with having our basic needs met. In addition, we desire to have pride in the perception of what we think we are as individuals. To obtain these we compete with or compare ourselves to others. Each of us has natural characteristics which can be utilized to gain favor from others and successfully compete in different ``arenas” (social status, employment, education, intelligence, social circles, and appearance) for things we desire. Throughout our lives, the positive feedback and resources we gain from others due to these characteristics may fuel our desire to improve only those characteristics and may lead to an isolated focus of improvement; meaning we focus on one personal characteristic to improve while neglecting others. Let’s take the example of beauty.
To digress away from the ``dumb blonde” example, I would just like to focus on Korea and how the current physical characteristics of beauty become associated with a lack of intelligence.
First consider the objective standards of feminine beauty in Korea; large eyes, narrow face, slender body, and large chest. If a woman at a young age possesses these physical qualities, people are naturally drawn to her, and give her positive feedback on these qualities and the resources she desires. In many cases she simply has handed to her anything she desires without much effort. There are even many comprehensive studies connecting perceived physical beauty and higher grades given by teacher’s (Ritts, Vicki, 1992). This is one example of the result of what social psychologists call the ``halo effect,” or the ``beautiful is good stereotype.” Even Aristotle said “personal beauty is a greater recommendation than any letter of reference.”
However, the woman’s environment would condition her to focus on her physical appearance. During her life she may devote a substantial amount of time and energy improving or sustaining this connection between her physical beauty and her ``success” in life instead of developing other skills, abilities, or her intellectual capacity. As time progresses, the difference in intelligence and character development between her and others who don’t share her ``natural physical appeal” may become substantial. The same may be true for men.
On the contrary, someone who does not possess such ``beauty” would need to develop other characteristics to gain the things he/she desires. A person who is objectively unattractive may focus on education, or other personality characteristics. This might explain why we think people with glasses look smarter. In the past, people with glasses were not considered physically attractive (in general), so they focused on education/intelligence; and ``arena” in which they can gain an advantage. Another possible example would be the Napoleon complex where a man of short stature will overcompensate in other areas of his life.
So in essence it’s the environment which could condition people to gain or neglect certain personal characteristics. Someone who is coddled just because he/she is beautiful, and nothing else is required of them, may neglect improving intelligence and developing character. If this occurs on a large scale with a group of people who possess the current physical standards of beauty, those physical characteristics may become associated with a lack of intelligence. In closing, I’ll leave you with a proverb from Congo; ``You may be beautiful, but learn to work, for you cannot eat your beauty.”
The author has been living in Korea since 2006; working primarily as an English teacher. He has a B.S. in Psychology and an M.S. in Applied Psychology (Organizational Training and Development). If you would like to comment on this article, go to www.frankforeigner.blogspot.com.