A Look into Lookism: An Evaluation of Discrimination Based on Physical Attractiveness

Cherea Hammer, Utah State University


Discrimination in employment on the basis of race, sex, national origin , religion , and other federally protected categories is well recognized as a social problem and anti-discrimination legislation works to limit the impact of discrimination on marginalized populations. However, most people do not consider discrimination based on physical appearance. "Lookism" captures the idea that an individual can be discriminated against based on their physical appearance or physical attractiveness and can also be called physical attractiveness discrimination. In recent years, the prevalence of the issue of physical attractiveness discrimination has been brought to the attention of professionals dealing with employment and has been researched by scholars in both psychology and business. It has been found that physically attractive individuals are consistently chosen over less physically attractive individuals for job interviews and are also more likely to be hired for positions. Physical attractiveness has also been found to positively impact wages, hours of work, and promotion opportunities while an individual is employed, as well as reduce their likelihood of being terminated. This article will explore the implications of physical attractiveness discrimination as it relate s to different aspects of the employment process such as application for employment or hiring decisions, promotions, wages, and termination decisions. It will also consider some possible solutions to the issue of physical attractiveness discrimination, such as the possibility of expanding existing laws to cover physical attractiveness or conducting interviews via telephone instead of in person. Lastly, directions for future research in this area will be explored including how the individual's emotional needs and health may be affected by this type of discrimination.


Faculty Mentor

Renee Gallher

Departmental Honors Advisor

Scott Bates