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Pretty Smart? Why We Equate Beauty With Truth 我们为什么会以貌取人?

Pretty Smart Why We Equate Beauty With Truth 我们为什么会以貌取人
Pretty Smart? Why We Equate Beauty With Truth

我们为什么会以貌取人?

A study shows that with some regularity we hear about the latest beauty-pageant contestant who has responded to a softball of a question with an epic fail of a mistake, a bizarre opinion or an incoherent ramble. There’s the Panamanian contestant who believed that Confucius invented the philosophy of ‘Confusion,’ the Miss Hawaii who described the U.S. only in terms of the ‘rocky shores’ and ‘sandy beaches’ of Hawaii, and the Miss South Carolina Teen USA who explained that Americans don’t know enough geography because too many people can’t afford maps.

Ridiculous. But what’s even more ridiculous is that our brains bias us toward believing such people — just because they’re good-looking.

The German poet Friedrich Schiller wrote, ‘Physical beauty is the sign of an interior beauty, a spiritual and moral beauty.’ His belief seems odd if you’ve ever seen a portrait of Schiller: His prominent schnozzola would have knocked him out of the 1788 edition of People Magazine’s ‘Sexiest Man Alive.’

In the years since, research has shown that from an early age — in both sexes and across numerous cultures — attractive people are judged to be smarter, kinder, more honest and trustworthy. Obviously, our bias toward thinking that ‘what is beautiful is good’ makes for some bad mating decisions.

In politics, we are also more likely to believe and vote for people who are attractive. Ditto for hiring them. And when it comes to ostensibly blind justice, numerous studies from the 1970s through ’90s found that more-attractive individuals are less likely to be convicted of crimes and, if convicted, receive shorter-than-average sentences for the crime.

Why should this be? Some have suggested that since it is pleasurable to meet someone attractive and someone good and honest, we unconsciously conflate the two. But this convergence of rewarding experiences seems dubious. After all, few of us intermix the pleasure of, say, reading about the triumph of the abolitionist movement with the pleasure of taking a bubble bath and eating a box of Twinkies.

Instead, it seems that the brain confuses the metaphorical and the literal — a fairly common sort of error, because brain regions often multitask. The same region, for instance, is involved in processing physical and emotional pain and in ‘feeling’ someone else’s pain. Another brain region is central to both gustatory disgust (responding to the taste of rotten food with reflexes that make you feel sick to your stomach) and moral disgust (responding to some appalling act by making you feel sick to your stomach).

Work by Takashi Tsukiura, Japanese and Roberto Cabeza, Spanish of Duke University shows something similar with looks: The medial orbitofrontal cortex of the brain is involved in rating both the beauty of a face and the goodness of a behavior, and the level of activity in that region during one of those tasks predicts the level during the other. In other words, the brain does similar things when contemplating beautiful minds, hearts or cheekbones. And it assumes that cheekbones tell you something about minds and hearts.

It’s a discouraging finding. But there’s also some good news in this story: The brain can get confused in both directions. In other words, the same neural wiring that gives rise to ‘What is beautiful is good’ also generates ‘What is good is beautiful.’

In studies by Sampo Paunonen of the University of Western Ontario, heterosexual subjects of both genders viewed pictures of people of the opposite sex, described as having varying degrees of intelligence, independence and honesty. Degrees of independence and intelligence had no effect on their ratings of attractiveness. But people who were described as being more honest were rated as more likable, and the more likable, the more physically attractive.

It seems that things even out in the end. On the one hand, we’re more likely to believe that the earth is flat just because a beauty queen says so. But on the other hand, people are more likely to see that the goodness of Mother Teresa or Gandhi is beautiful.

每隔一段时间,我们就会听到最近有某某选美大赛选手在回答简单问题时错得离谱、观点离奇或前言不搭后语地闲扯。有位巴拿马的选美选手认为“Confucius”(孔子)开创了“Confusion”(困惑)哲学,夏威夷小姐只用描述夏威夷的“‘多岩石的海岸”和“多沙的沙滩”之类的词汇来形容美国,而南卡罗来纳妙龄小姐则解释说美国人对地理了解不够是因为很多人买不起地图。

真是可笑。但更荒唐的是,我们的大脑往往会偏向于相信这些人——只是因为她们长相好看。

德国诗人弗里德里希·席勒(Friedrich Schiller)曾写道:“外表美是内在美、精神美和道德美的标志。”他的这个观点显得有些奇怪——如果你看过他的肖像的话:如果1788年有《人物杂志》(People Magazine)“在世最性感男人”榜单,他那显眼的大鼻子应该会让他落选。

在那之后的这些年中,研究表明从较小年纪开始——在男性与女性及众多不同的文化中——长相迷人者往往被认为更聪明、更和善、更诚实及值得信任。显然,我们认为“美即是好”的偏向导致我们做出了一些糟糕的婚配决定。

在政治方面,我们也倾向于相信并投票给长相迷人者,在工作招聘中同样如此。至于那些显然有失理智的法官,上世纪70年代至90年代期间的众多研究发现,长相较美的人被判有罪的可能性更小,而且即使被判有罪,所判的刑期也短于平均水平。

事情为什么会这样呢?有些人提出,由于遇见长相迷人者和品德优良诚实者都令人愉快,我们会不自觉地把这二者混为一谈。但是,这种将美妙经历混为一体的说法似乎并不让人信服。毕竟,很少有人会把阅读废奴运动的胜利带来的快乐与和洗泡泡浴与吃一盒Twinkie奶油夹心蛋糕的愉悦混在一起。

相反,原因似乎是大脑将比喻意义与表面意义混淆了,这是一种相当常见的错误,因为大脑区域常常要处理多种任务。比如说,同一个区域需处理身体及情感上的痛苦并要“感受”他人的痛苦。还有一个大脑区域,它是味觉嫌恶(对腐烂食物的味道产生恶心反应)及精神嫌恶(对某些骇人的行为产生恶心反应)反应的中枢区域。

美国杜克大学(Duke University)的月浦崇(Takashi Tsukiura)与罗伯托·卡韦萨(Roberto Cabeza)对外貌的研究获得了类似的发现:大脑的内侧眶额皮层既参与评判脸蛋的美丽程度,又评判行为的好与坏,从该区域处理其中一项任务时的活跃程度可预测出它处理另一项任务时的活跃程度。换句话说,在思考一个人有没有出色的头脑、善良的心灵或好看的脸蛋时,大脑的运作机制是类似的。它假定脸蛋就能让你了解一个人的头脑与心灵。

这是一个让人沮丧的发现。不过,它也带来了好消息:大脑可能在两个相反的方向上都会搞糊涂。也就是说,让你产生“美即是善”想法的那条神经线路也会让你产生“善即是美”的想法。

在西安大略大学(University of Western Ontario)桑波·保诺宁(Sampo Paunonen)的研究中,异性恋的男女受试者观看了一些异性的照片,照片上的人被描述为智力、独立性和诚实度各有不同。研究发现,独立性及智力的高低程度未影响他们对长相迷人程度的评判,不过被形容为较诚实的人也会被认为更讨人喜欢,而越讨人喜欢的人,外貌也就更具吸引力。

如此看来,事情最终都扯平了。一方面,我们可能因为一位美貌的女王说过地球是平的就相信这句话;另一方面,我们也有可能因为特雷莎修女(Mother Teresa)或甘地(Gandhi)的善良而认为他们是美的。

Learn Mandarin in Hong Kong – Beauty is subjective