20 November 2018

Research pick: Popularity contest - "What makes you popular: beauty, personality or intelligence?"

Researchers in Italy and the USA have asked the provocative question: “What makes you popular: beauty, personality or intelligence?”. They present their answer in the International Journal of Entrepreneurship and Small Business.

Andrea Fronzetti Colladon, Elisa Battistoni, and Agostino La Bella of the Department of Enterprise Engineering, at the University of Rome Tor Vergata, and colleagues Francesca Grippa of Northeastern University, Boston, and Peter Gloor of the MIT Center for Collective Intelligence, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA, explored the determinants of popularity within friendship and advice networks. They investigated the effects of personality traits (such as extraversion, conscientiousness, neuroticism), self-monitoring, creativity, intelligence, energy, and beauty influence the development of friendships among some 200 college students.

Their results are perhaps not unsurprising: “Our results indicate that physical attractiveness is a key to develop both friendship and task-related interactions,” the team reports. “Perceived intelligence and creativity play an important role in the advice network,” they say. They add that this supports a kernel of truth in the stereotype that attractiveness correlates with positive social traits and successful outcomes. Of course, the detailed findings also suggest that the relationships between all these factors is rather complicated and confounded in many instances.

Nevertheless, while on average, being liked seems to be as important as being considered intelligent and competent, the team found that the way people look plays a key role in determining the attribution of competence.

Fronzetti Colladon, A., Grippa, F., Battistoni, E., Gloor, P.A. and La Bella, A. (2018) ‘What makes you popular: beauty, personality or intelligence?‘, Int. J. Entrepreneurship and Small Business, Vol. 35, No. 2, pp.162-186.

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