Can Mindfulness Make Us Less Shallow?

What are our brains doing when we assume that someone who’s beautiful on the outside must be beautiful on the inside?

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Of the many entries under the heading“life is not fair,” surely one of the most egregious is the “what is beautiful is good” stereotype. One of our strongest cognitive biases, it makes us ascribe to physically attractive people a formidable array of positive traits. According to studies going back 40 years, we assume that attractive adults are more competent, better adjusted, powerful, mentally healthy, intelligent, and more socially skilled than less attractive ones.

This “what is beautiful is good” stereotype manifests in a slew of real-life situations and is by no means a one-study wonder: it has been documented in piles of research. Taken as a whole, the studies show that this is one of the more robust cognitive biases operating in the human mind. It may also be one of the oldest. The Greek poet Sappho is credited with first asserting, 2,600 years ago, that “what is beautiful is good,” while in 1882 the German romantic poet Friedrich Schiller wrote that “physical beauty is the sign of an interior beauty, a spiritual and moral beauty.”

To conduct studies of attractiveness bias, researchers don’t try to solve the culturally laden mystery of why people in particular cultures find some faces…

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