Interesting Reading…

February 28, 2010


Why do we trust that “beautiful” people are nice? What drives us to make that (stupid) assumption? The answer to the question might lie in Robert Cialdini’s book: “Influence: The psychology of Persuasion”. Please note at this point that I am not promoting this book, I just came across the following (long) quoted passage and found it to be serving the message of this blog: do not cast judgements based on appearance only. “ Although it is generally acknowledged that good-looking people have an advantage in social interaction, recent findings indicate that we may have sorely underestimated the size and reach of that advantage. There seems to be a click, whirr response to attractive people. Like all click, whirr reactions, it happens automatically, without forethought. The response itself falls into a category that social scientists call ‘halo effects’. A halo effect occurs when one positive characteristic of a person dominates the way that person is viewed by others. And the evidence is now clear that physical attractiveness is often such a characteristic. Research has shown that we automatically assign to good-looking individuals such favourable traits as talent, kindness, honesty, and intelligence. Furthermore, we make these judgements without being aware that physical attractiveness plays a role in the process. Certain of the consequences of this unconscious assumption that ‘good-looking equals good’ scare me. For example, a study of the Canadian federal elections found that attractive candidates received more than 2 and a half times as many votes as unattractive candidates. Despite such evidence of favouritism toward handsome politicians, follow-up research demonstrated that voters do not realise their bias. In fact, 73 per cent of Canadian voters surveyed denied in the strongest possible terms that their votes had been influenced by physical appearance; only 14 per cent even allowed for the possibility of such influence. A similar effect has been found in hiring situations. In one study, good grooming of applicants in a simulated employment interview accounted for more favourable hiring decisions than did job qualifications – this, even though the interviewers claimed that appearance played a small role in their choices. Equally unsettling research indicates that our judicial process is similarly susceptible to the influences of body dimensions and bone structure. Good-looking people are likely to receive highly favourable treatment in the legal system. For example, in a Pennsylvania study, researchers rated the physical attractiveness of 74 separate male defendants at the start of their criminal trials. When, much later, the researchers checked court records for the results of these cases, they found that the handsome men had received significantly lighter sentences. In fact, the attractive defendants were twice as likely to avoid jail as the unattractive ones. In another study – this one on the damages awarded in a staged negligence trial- a defendant who was better-looking than his victim was assessed an average amount of $5,623; but when the victim was the more attractive of the two, the average compensation was $10,051. What’s more, both male and female jurors exhibited the attractiveness-based favouritism. Other experiments have demonstrated that attractive people are more likely to obtain help when in need and are more likely to obtain help when in need and are more persuasive in changing the opinion of an audience. Here, too, both sexes respond in the same way. In the helping study, for instance, the better-looking men and women received aid more often, even from members of their own sex. A major exception to this rule might be expected to occur, of course, if the attractive person is viewed as a direct competitor, especially a romantic rival. Short of this qualification, though, it is apparent that good-looking people enjoy an enormous social advantage in our culture. They are better liked, more persuasive, more frequently helped, and seen as possessing better personality traits and intellectual capacities. And it appears that the social benefits of good looks begin to accumulate quite early. Research on elementary-school children shows that adults view aggressive acts as less naughty when performed by an attractive child and that teachers presume good-looking children to be more intelligent than their less-attractive classmates. It is hardly any wonder, then, that the halo of physical attractiveness is regularly exploited by compliance professionals. Because we like attractive people and because we tend to comply with those we like, it makes sense that sales training programs include grooming hints, that fashionable clothiers select their floor staff from among the good-looking candidates, and that con men are handsome and con women pretty.“ The rest of the book is actually a very good read and provides useful insights into how salespeople, conmen, advertisers, lawyers, etc… try to influence you into doing what serves their interests. It does set some good foundations for anyone who wants to understand the power of influence and turn it around to their advantage, whatever side of the fence they are on.

For more information about Robert Cialdini, click here.

To buy “Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion”, click here.


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My first role model…

February 26, 2010


The role model of this first week of blogging is a colleague of mine. We both work for an IT consultancy and things can get tough career wise: you hit a glass ceiling as there are certain things and perceptions you cannot beat (especially when it comes to women). In came my role model: she pulled me out of a dreadful place and gave me a chance at proving that I could do things more intellectually demanding than just filing documents. She was 33 at the time and the best mentor that a 24 year old could ever hope for. She was tough yet kind, demanding yet forgiving and extremely good at what she was doing yet able to transfer that knowledge smoothly. Despite all the travelling that came with our jobs, she still found time for being part of a book exchange club, serving as a buddy to an orphan as part of a charity effort, stick to her vegetarian diet and maintain an allotment. 3 years have passed since we have worked together and despite the fact that we live in different parts of the country and the separation the nature of our work induces, we still keep regularly in touch. She was invited at my wedding. She is so good at her job that she managed to get promoted twice in the space of 3 years, a massive achievement considering that it usually takes 5 years to get promoted once. You would also think that being nearly 10 years older than me, she would not be bothered with my friendship: when people more mature than you bother to keep the friendship alive, it usually means a lot. She was invited to my wedding.

Which brings me to why she is one of my role models: 2 days before our wedding, I receive a call from her saying she might not be able to make it to our wedding. Her dad had a brain tumor.

Eventually, she managed to make it to the wedding without having to sacrifice her family time. However, a few months later, her father is not getting better and the prognostic is of the gloomiest. In the face of this, most people would want to retire themselves within their families and hide with them. Not my friend: her fiancé proposed to her on Christmas day and they are planning their wedding for June. It is most likely that her dad will not make it until then. I guess they do not want to spend the little time they have left with her dad being sad and despaired but happy so their memories of their last times together can be bittersweet rather than just bitter and sad.


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Why role “models”?

February 22, 2010


I was always told that the most obvious place to start is the beginning. So here goes: my story is one of a modern day ugly duckling. I was born with a hirsute mass of hair none of the female members of my entourage could make sense of. Different catastrophic attempts at taming it (short, chemically relaxed, blow dried, you name it) led to a few traumatising years of bullying at school. Things did get better eventually by the time I had reached High School when I had mastered the art of making my hair less “obvious”. Other underlying problems such as the majority of women in my family being weight-loss obsessed led me to feel extremely awkward in my own body. I never truly felt at ease with myself until I met my future husband. Fast forward on cue to the few months leading to our wedding and a budding photographer friend of mine offers to do a pre-wedding photoshoot so she can practice with her mentor’s professional equipment. 2 days later I get a call from said mentor who wants to use me as a modern Mona Lisa for one of his projects. That’s how I got sucked into modelling. Somehow, I look straight into the camera and it makes me a “natural”. However, being a geek with a professional career in IT consultancy, having been to university in 2 different countries, speaking 2 languages fluently, I find the word “model” ugly… “Why? It’s not as if beauty was a curse?”, you may ask. Well, simply because it feels as if by being a model, I would only be defined by my looks. When people talk about Claudia Schiffer, do they mention her (potentially) sparkling personality first? I don’t know what kind of person she is, but somehow people tend to think that as long as you are that beautiful, you just cannot be a b*tch… Wrong, wrong, wrong! Anyone remember Naomi Campbell’s mobile phone tantrums? Some people are somehow held on a pedestal just because they were born that good looking and happen to have gazillions of lights, make-up artists, hairdressers and photographers whose sole purpose is to actually make them look good (believe me). It seems nowadays that society has become so image obsessed that the actual underlying core values and beliefs that make us “individuals” have disappeared or plainly ignored. When you hear that most teenage girls nowadays have an eating disorder, are considering surgery, have hang-ups about their bodies, think they have to have fake boobs like those seen in a porno movie to be considered attractive and, worst of all, that 2 thirds of them aspire to be a glamour model, it sends a chill down your spine… What kind of message are the media sending to those girls? That the only aspiration they may have in life is just to be pretty? If you do not look like a page 3 girl, no one will even respect you? How do you get to the point where at 14, you are convinced that the only career you might have will require you to go for multiple boob surgeries, high maintenance make-up/hair/nails and as much fakery as humanly possible just for at most 10 years in that career? Let’s face it: surgery can make you look younger for longer but there comes a time when your skin cannot take it anymore. The best cure is to accept what you look like and make the most of it in the longer term. I aspire to look more like Sophia Loren when I grow old than Pamela Anderson. The whole “You have to be that size, that body shape, that blonde to be even considered worthy of attention” kind of reminds me of the “Sit down, shut up, be pretty and someday you might find yourself a nice enough husband who will take care of you”. It seems like society is erasing all the hard work done by previous generations of women that enabled us to have the freedom to do whatever we wanted with our lives. Going back to teenage girls, the new “ideal” image they get bombarded with must make life hell for them. It was hard enough for me growing up as an awkward teenager and I was a scrawny size 8. I had boys yelling “I’d rather do a goat than doing you even if we were on a deserted island” at me. I guess nowadays, girls must get “Your boobs are saggy, your fanny is sideways, your roots are not dyed and your skin isn’t fake tanned enough”. All of this leads me to the title of this blog. I have learned over the years not to trust, nor hang around the (skin-deep) beautiful people… You can guess I was never allowed into their Parthenon anyway. I sought the company of more mature individuals and tried to find true heroes I could model myself after out there, since it seemed I would never win on the beauty front. I would always make a point to admire someone famous for their achievement in life rather than the lucky draw they got out of the genetic lottery. I was bringing back the rules of what makes a model, more precisely a role model. This gives this blog its title. I will try to describe a new role model each week. The role model in question can be famous but I will also include more down to earth people I only know and admire for their achievements or courage. I might also probably include rants about the “hell” model (people who the media bombards us with, the fake idols if I may say so) and my reactions to the news or other everyday life happenings for as long as they are relevant to this blog. I will try to keep the classical case of narcissism that comes from having your own blog away. After all, this is not about “me” the model, but about the people I admire and get my inspiration from to maybe, one day, become a role model myself.



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