The Privilege of Being Beautiful

With beauty can come better treatment -- how far can it take you?

ByABC News
November 1, 2006, 4:52 PM

Nov. 2, 2006 — -- All of us like to look at beautiful people, but does beauty really bring you privilege?

A few people say no, beauty is a curse!

ABC's "The Bachelor," the show where women compete to win the affection of a handsome man, often provides insights into the way these incredibly beautiful people think.

Last year, one jilted contestant tearfully complained that there were plenty of disadvantages to being beautiful.

"People are mean to me because of the way I look. People hate me because I'm beautiful," she said. "It's a curse as much as it is a blessing to be pretty."

She might have a point, according to researchers Rick Wilson of Rice University and Catherine Eckel of the University of Texas at Dallas.

In a study called "Judging a Book by Its Cover: Beauty and Expectations in the Trust Game," the researchers found what they call a "beauty penalty."

"The beauty penalty is a kind of backlash that we hadn't anticipated finding," Eckel told "20/20."

"People have very high expectations of the level of trust of beautiful people. When beautiful people fail to live up to those expectations, they're punished more harshly than people who are not beautiful," Eckel said.

Wilson said pretty waitresses, for example, might be penalized with small tips.

"A beautiful waitress may provide extremely good service but not nearly the level that you might expect because of your expectations -- you may think that such a person ought to be providing fabulous service," he said. "And as a consequence, you penalize the person for not living up to your own expectations."