Discrimination in personnel decisions: the effects of applicant sex and physical attractiveness
Riegelhaupt, Barry J.
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Recent reviews of research on employee selection have shown that both sex-role stereotypes and physical attractiveness stereotypes have pronounced effects on the personnel evaluations received by attractive or unattractive male or female applicants when applying for particular jobs. With the exception of one recent study by Beehr and Gilmore (1982), however, previous research has neglected to identify jobs for which physical attractiveness (PA) was relevant and jobs for which PA was irrelevant when investigating the effects of physical attractiveness stereotypes on employment decisions. The present research examined sex-role stereotypes and PA-stereotypes using appropriately sex-typed and PA relevancy-typed jobs. The second purpose of the research was to extend the findings that the causal attributions made concerning a person’s success and/or failure at a particular task are a function of the sex-congruency of the task. If physical attractiveness stereotypes are as prevalent as sex-role stereotypes, then the attributions made by raters concerning successful or unsuccessful performance in PA-congruent tasks should be as pervasive as the attributions made for sex-congruent tasks. The final purpose of the research addressed a deficiency in the employee selection literature. While the biasing effects that physical attractiveness has on selection decisions are well documented, only one study could be found that attempted to control or eliminate this bias. Hence, this study employed a halo reduction technique, namely, the explicit rating of the irrelevant halo producing factor, in an attempt to purge from a rater's system the bias produced in job-related ratings by a job applicant's physical attractiveness. In Experiment 1, each of 68 subjects rated the suitability of one applicant for masculine, feminine, and neuter sex-typed jobs. Each resume was identical with the exception of the systematic manipulation of the applicant's sex. As expected, sex-role stereotypes had a strong influence on personnel decisions, as well as recommendations of alternatives to employment and subjects' causal attributions of applicants' assumed successful and unsuccessful job performance. In Experiment 2, a 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 3 x 2 (Purge x Photo Attractiveness x Applicant Sex x Subject Sex x Job Sex-Type x PA-Relevancy) design was employed. Subjects were 304 undergraduate students. Each resume was identical with the exception of the systematic manipulation of the applicant's sex and attractiveness. As predicted, personnel decisions once again reflected the operation of sex-role stereotypes. Additionally, subjects' evaluations reflected the influence of a physical attractiveness stereotype that affected employment decisions, overall employment potential, and causal attributions of applicants' job successes and failures. Limited but promising results were found for the purging technique which was designed to reduce the bias in personnel decisions that results from an applicant's attractiveness.
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