The Attractive Expert Syndrome
Ever notice how many experts interviewed on television and even magazines are unusually attractive? Ever think of how this hurts you?
Probably not. Most people love to see beauty. After all, an affinity for beauty is hard-wired into our genes. (Studies have shown that even babies prefer to look at beautiful faces.) So how are people harmed by the fact that so many experts that we see in the media are attractive? Because these experts are not the ones with the most expertise. How do I know that? I'll explain.
A few years ago, I saw a magazine article that quoted five experts, all of whom were gorgeous women. Probably less than one woman in a hundred is that hot, so if those “experts” were truly selected for their expertise and not their beauty, the odds of them all being gorgeous is one in ten billion. In other words, virtually impossible. So let’s state the obvious: those women were chosen because they are beautiful. How does that hurt you? Keep reading.
Let’s say that you are looking for a world-class pediatrician in your area, and for some reason you want her to be a gorgeous woman. When you add another criterion (beauty, in this case) that takes most people out of the running, you invariably end up with less expertise. Of all the pediatricians in any given state, only a handful are truly world-class. And how many of those are gorgeous women? You would be lucky to find just one. Most probably, that pediatrician won’t practice near you. Therefore, if you insist on finding a stunning pediatrician, you would likely have to accept one less qualified. This is an inevitable consequence of statistics, yet most people never stop and think how it affects them. Pick up a magazine, newspaper, or turn your TV on. Increasingly, the experts you will find therein are more likely to be attractive than what would be expected if appearance were not an issue. Consequently, if you pick up a magazine, as I did, and found that the experts for an article were all gorgeous women, it’s a foregone conclusion that you were not given the best experts! Inevitably, there are experts with greater expertise, but they're often shunned by the media in favor of "experts" who know less but look better.
Want another example? How many weight loss "experts" have you seen in the media in your lifetime? Countless ones, no doubt. And how many of them could tell you an easy way to lose weight? None. However, I know how to lose weight without dieting, drugs, herbs, exercise, or surgery, and I wrote about this technique in one of my books. Yet have you seen me on TV discussing this? No, but you've undoubtedly seen many celebrities pitching their weight loss books. The producers who select such guests don't care if you lose weight or not. They just want to give you an attractive face to look at, because they know that more people will tune in to see a beautiful guest. (From a more cynical perspective, does the media really want you to lose weight? Think of what would happen if everyone read my book. If they did, no one would need to know anything more about weight loss. So what would happen to the myriad magazines and whatnot that tempt you to buy them or tune in because they claim to have the latest weight loss breakthrough? It's obvious: the magazine circulation and the TV show ratings would plummet. Thus, they have a good reason to keep tempting you, but never telling you what really works well and is so painless that anyone who wishes to lose weight can now do it, easily.)
NBC's The Apprentice is yet another example of how people are increasingly being selected on the basis of their appearance. We're told that The Apprentice contestants are the best and brightest chosen from a pool of a million applicants. What a strange coincidence it is that those people just happen to be unusually attractive; more than a few of them look better than many Hollywood stars. Does anyone truly believe that those contestants are the crème de la crème in terms of brainpower? It's preposterous! An entire season can go by without one contestant manifesting any clear-cut sign of brilliance. Whatever intellectual potential they possess seems to be dissipated in petty squabbles and simplistic intrigues, not the grand Machiavellian cabals that some contestants yearn for.
In theory, America is a meritocracy that rewards people on the basis of their performance. In reality, people are often rewarded because they are attractive. Some people decry beauty contests, opining that they emphasize the wrong attributes. And they do. The winners of those contests generally can't do anything except smile and look pretty; can you name even one who had enough brains to make her mark on this world? What does society get in return for the endless adulation and piles of money and opportunities that we give to them? Smiles? Momentary visual titillation? That's hardly an equitable quid pro quo, in my opinion. Why don't we instead put on a pedestal the Plain Janes who contribute to the betterment of mankind? However, in our looks-obsessed culture, average-looking women are usually relegated to having only second-rate and third-rate opportunities, while the babes with less mental horsepower can become an overnight celebrity on The Apprentice or seek fame and fortune in countless other ways.
Pharmaceutical representatives, or drug reps as they're called, have some of the most lucrative jobs obtainable without an advanced degree. The function of drug reps is, at least ostensibly, to educate physicians about drugs. So who gets these great jobs? The brainiest college grads? Um, no, not them. Then who? In recent years, pharmaceutical manufacturers have openly sought cheerleaders. Yes, cheerleaders.
Pathetic, isn't it? Unfortunately, it is emblematic of a much larger problem in which life in general is becoming one big beauty contest. Thus we end up hearing from "experts" with first-rate appearance but second-rate expertise, because the true experts are censored because they aren't sufficiently attractive. It's an outrage.
UPDATE: I wasn't thinking of myself when I wrote this a few years ago, but after re-reading it a minute ago, I belatedly realized that I have also been victimized by this tendency of the media to favor the most attractive experts, even if they are not the ones with the most expertise.
Lisa Paul, a producer with the now-defunct television talk show The Gayle King Show read my first book (Fascinating Health Secrets) and liked it so much that she wanted me to appear on their show. After Lisa contacted me, I began watching that show. Every guest I saw was one of those ultra-beautiful Hollywood celebrities, obviously selected because of their looks, not because they had anything especially interesting to say. Thus, I wondered where I fit into this lineup of pulchritude.
The answer? I didn't. After Lisa viewed a videotape of me on TV, she apparently concluded that I didn't meet their standards of beauty, because she never called me after that.
I once stumbled upon the blog of a nurse raving about "that yummy Dr. ---," (referring to me) but she is clearly in the minority. I and just about every woman who isn't half-blind would never think that I am Hollywood material, yet if you've seen what I look like, you'd probably agree that you could put up with watching me on TV in return for me explaining how YOU could be more attractive, happy, and healthy.
In cultures that put attractive people on a pedestal, the beautiful woman syndrome is inevitable, so if you have it, I am not blaming you for what is clearly a cultural problem.
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Interested in another aspect of beauty? Read about why beautiful women are less likely to end up as ER patients.
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“Most beautiful dumb girls think they are smart and get away with it, because other people, on the whole, aren't much smarter.”
— Louise Brooks