Five studies tested the hypothesis that self-perceived attractiveness shapes people’s perceptions of their social class (subjective SES), which, in turn, shape how people respond to inequality and social hierarchies.
Study 1 found that self-perceived attractiveness was associated with support for group-based dominance and belief in legitimizing ideologies, and that these relationships were mediated by subjective social class. Subsequent experiments showed that higher self-perceived attractiveness increased subjective SES, which in turn, increased SDO (Study 2 and Study 5); promoted stronger beliefs in dispositional causes of inequality (Study 3); and reduced donations to a movement advocating for social equality (Study 4). By contrast, lower self-perceived attractiveness decreased subjective SES, which in turn, led to a greater tendency to reject social hierarchies and to construe inequality in terms of contextual causes. These effects emerged even after controlling for power, status, and self-esteem, and were not simply driven by inducing people to see themselves positively on desirable traits (Study 4 and Study 5).