Thursday, May 05, 2005

This Explains a Lot, Actually

KGrease was never what you might call "handsome."

Fat, confused, hair-like-a-rat's-nest, that sort of thing. But not handsome.

And, when I was 18 months old, my mother had twin daughters. Dressed them alike. They were so freakin' CUTE! I couldn't stand it. No one wanted to play with me.

So, parental disdain for my Calabanity led DIRECTLY to my career as a professional wrestler, putting other big sweaty men into submission holds and throwing folding chairs at women whose bodies are composed mostly of silicone.

Now, there is proof that this is a general phenomenon: Parents don't like ugly kids!
At least, not as much.

Check this excerpt:
Researchers at the University of Alberta carefully observed how parents treated their children during trips to the supermarket. They found that physical attractiveness made a big difference.

The researchers noted if the parents belted their youngsters into the grocery cart seat, how often the parents' attention lapsed and the number of times the children were allowed to engage in potentially dangerous activities like standing up in the shopping cart. They also rated each child's physical attractiveness on a 10-point scale.

The findings, not yet published, were presented at the Warren E. Kalbach Population Conference in Edmonton, Alberta.

When it came to buckling up, pretty and ugly children were treated in starkly different ways, with seat belt use increasing in direct proportion to attractiveness. When a woman was in charge, 4 percent of the homeliest children were strapped in compared with 13.3 percent of the most attractive children. The difference was even more acute when fathers led the shopping expedition - in those cases, none of the least attractive children were secured with seat belts, while 12.5 percent of the prettiest children were.

Homely children were also more often out of sight of their parents, and they were more often allowed to wander more than 10 feet away.

Age - of parent and child - also played a role. Younger adults were more likely to buckle their children into the seat, and younger children were more often buckled in. Older adults, in contrast, were inclined to let children wander out of sight and more likely to allow them to engage in physically dangerous activities.

And, apparently Michael Jackson was a confounding factor in the experiments:
Although the researchers were unsure why, good-looking boys were usually kept in closer proximity to the adults taking care of them than were pretty girls.

Why might this be? (The difference in treatment, not the Michael Jackson thing).
Dr. W. Andrew Harrell, executive director of the Population Research Laboratory at the University of Alberta and the leader of the research team, sees an evolutionary reason for the findings: pretty children, he says, represent the best genetic legacy, and therefore they get more care.
...Dr. Harrell said the importance of physical attractiveness "cuts across social class, income and education."

"Like lots of animals, we tend to parcel out our resources on the basis of value," he said. "Maybe we can't always articulate that, but in fact we do it. There are a lot of things that make a person more valuable, and physical attractiveness may be one of them."

(Nod to JP, who is butter)


Anonymous said...

Uh, could it not be a case of reverse causation here? Intelligent, responsible people tend to marry each other and have cuter offspring on average than non-intelligent irresponsible people? Signed, Larry Summers

Mungowitz said...

Yep, that's what Franz de Waal argued.

Probably right.

But....then why are my kids cute? Wait, does that mean I'm not the father? GRRRRRR!

Anonymous said...

Wait! Did you mean to say I was "butter" or "bitter". I only sent it to you because its so rare that social scientists produce "useful" info applicable to everyone. (ok, I guess it was bitter after all).

BTW- my "mudder" says the reason I got so much attention was not a result of my comity, but rather that I was a "rotten,rotten" little kid who she needed to strap down lest I reek havoc. This appraisal has actually softened now that she realizes I'm paying for their retirement. Which leads me to conclude that the reserachers got it wrong: parents protect the attractive offspring as they are most likely to get "high-paying" jobs and keep social security solvent. Or at least enough income not to live at home like their Oxford Ph.D. siblings.