Stop Doing Favors for Attractive People (Unless You’re Getting Something Out of It)

A spate of studies has confirmed what we already know: attractive people benefit from their attractiveness. What the studies fail to mention is how complicit the rest of us are in allowing them to leverage their looks into favors, homework help, or plain cash.

To illustrate, the pretty girl in your math class wears spaghetti straps when asking her TA for a better grade because it’s effective. She probably wore short shorts and extra mascara to finagle the chem test answers last time. So whose fault is it that she keeps getting preferential treatment? Unequivocally, the TA’s. He has reinforced her behavior by consistently (perhaps even unconsciously) making allowances for her, despite the lack of reciprocation.

This happens everywhere. The last time I got my hair cut, my hairdresser was a cute woman in her late twenties. When I went up to the register to pay, she leaned over the counter, giving me a generous view of her cleavage. It was clear that she wanted an equally generous tip (or maybe she was just tired from standing all day and wanted to take some weight off of her feet). I gave her the same tip that I would have given her regardless, though in my younger days I might have tipped less.

That attractive people get away with murder is not a law of the universe. It’s a product of society’s encouragement. So that begs the question, what is the proper way to respond? Should we ignore it and pretend it doesn’t affect us? Should we punish it in the hopes of bringing society more in line with our vision of a meritocracy? I would recommend recognizing it for what it is, somewhere between an attempt to be manipulative and a genuine desire to be personable. Once we are conscious of it, we won’t be so easily enticed. And if you want people to like you, there’s no better way than to demonstrate to the less attractive that you fully intend to treat them fairly and to demonstrate to the more attractive that you are unconvinced by their beauty.