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We usually judge people depending on their appearance. When looking at a person, we create a certain image inside our heads and treat them according to this image. Whether we meet someone on the street or in a club, appearance plays one of the most important roles in official situations, like when a person applies for a work or when he or she is under the trial. "People often rely on each other's physical appearance to form first impressions, and these impressions can be potent and enduring" (Burgoon, Buller, & Woodall, 1996). Appearance is one of the most powerful psychological tools. It can show the whole personality of a person, or totally hide it. Our group decided to carry out research concerning the impact of personal appearance on credibility judgments. Since there are a lot of factors that influence perceptions of a person's credibility, we decided to narrow our research down to what we believe are the appearance characteristics/features that can affect perceived credibility of a white adult male the most. We chose the Caucasian adult male for the sake of simplicity and for a more cohesive study. Factors of the typical male in this category that can influence perceived credibility chosen by us are the type of facial piercings he possess, the type of facial hair he has, whether he wears eyeglasses, and his hair style.
These characteristics constitute four of the six designs we have chosen to research - design number five includes a white adult male possessing the characteristics that we hypothesized as being the characteristics from each design that would be the least likely to lead to higher perceived credibility ratings and design number six includes a white adult male possessing the characteristics that we hypothesized as being the characteristics from each design that would be the most likely to lead to higher perceived credibility ratings. Our research will consist of two parts - the first one is theoretical part, and the second part will be practical evidences. So, here is our theoretical basis: The aim of our experiment was for each participant to rate what they believe was the credibility of white adult male when different characteristics of appearance was manipulated. They did this by reading statements that they believe were said by the man that they were shown, and then subconsciously differentiated between what characteristics gives the impression of a good professional and a reliable person from what characteristics do not. Research indicates that one of the most important factors that influence people's approach to a person is the face of the person.
One of the most attractive types of faces is a baby face. However, the situation is totally changed if the person possesses any facial piercings. For example, Seiter (2003) says, that if facial piercing is not very extreme (e.g. pierced nose or tongue) and it is not very noticeable, then it is okay and the person is treated regularly according to his or her age. But if it gets extreme (e.g. pierced eyebrow or lower lip, etc), then the person is regarded as non-reliable and non-creditable. Also, he says that employers usually willingly pick up those candidates who do not have any facial piercings, than those who have any. Visible piercings change the attitude of people so much that if a mature person has pierced face, then such a person is regarded as immature and employers usually think that this person is not a good specialist and is totally irresponsible. Our group put this research to the test in the first design of our experiment, which measured the impact of facial piercings on impressions of creditability. Here, we created four different versions of the same man's face - him having no piercings, him having just a piercing on his left ear (not very extreme), him having just a piercing on his lower lip (more extreme), and him having both a piercing on the left ear and lower lip (most extreme). Our hypothesis was that the more facial piercings a man has, the less creditable he will be perceived and that the picture with him with the lower lip piercing will reduce his overall credibility more than the picture of him with the earring. The same situation is with tattooed people. People who have visible tattoos were less credible (Drews, Allison, & Probst, 2000) and employers treated them in the same way as people with visible facial piercing. Piercing and tattoos are considered to be attributes of teenagers, and mature and professional person can have neither of them. If a person claims to be treated as professional, then he or she must have certain look and follow certain style which excludes all the piercings and tattoos. We chose to use piercings over tattoos because we are focusing on the face and hair only and piercings are more commonly found on the face than tattoos.
Facial hair is yet another factor affecting the impression people develop on people they meet. According to the University of New Mexico some employer may shun job applicant with long facial hair considering them to be troublesome. Facial hair that is not well taken care of is perceived to be assign of carelessness and such people are not credible. Contrary to this, Hellström & Tekle (1994) noted that when wearing a beard is associated with conventional goodness, the individual wearing such a beard are though to be credible by other people. A beard is also associated with maturity ass opposed to a plain face which is though to be young and therefore less credible. In a research conducted by Stark and Shannon (2003), it was noted that the level of beardedness did not affect the way job applicants were evaluated significantly. However, as Stark and Shannon (2003) later noted, the trend shown by the recruitment data showed that the bearded applicant war chosen for managerial level positions at rates lower than those of their less bearded counterparts an indication that the lesser beards a person had the more credible he was. Generally it seems people find men with well trimmed hair to be more credible than those with long facial hair. Neatly trimmed facial hair may be a sure sign of a responsible person, a perception that is likely to earn the person Credibility. On the other hand absence of facial hair also acts negatively on the credibility of individual. My hypothesis was that the more facial hair a man has, the more credible he is perceived. In the research design we used three pictures of the same person that are modified to depict different facial hair style. The first picture depicts a man whose face is shaven clean, the second picture depicts the man with a moustache and the third picture is a picture of the man with a beard.
But what if a person wears glasses? Concerning to the information taken from Psychinfo, people who wear glasses look "more intelligent, more industrious, more honest, and more dependable" (Psychinfo 2010). People are used to thinking that if a person wears glasses, then he or she reads a lot, is clever, and is a good professional. There is even a stereotype in our society - owls - the symbol of wisdom - are often pictured wearing glasses. Concerning credibility of a person who wears glasses, there are a lot of evidence that employers would rather hire a person with glasses, as it can be a proof that this person usually spends a lot of time reading and learning material. Also, people consider that such people are more accurate and are more likely to be perfectionist. For example, Chaney says that if a person who wears glasses comes to make a contract or on some other business affair, than people will eagerly do business with such person. Glasses are considered to be a part of business etiquette (Chaney et. al 2007). But at the same time, the press mentions that glasses are also indicator of pacifism (Press 2005). Given that there is a certain creditability about glasses, our hypothesis was that the man with glasses would be rated higher on the credibility scale in the majority of cases, even though he is the same man in the picture without glasses and the same statement is believed to have been said by him.
Lastly, there are also different attitudes towards hair style. For example, Andersen (1972) conducted research on the impact of homophilous hair on credibility. His results showed that if a man has long hair, he can be treated in different ways depending on the haircut and hairdo he has. Neat hair in tale will always make good impression on people and they will treat such person with respect and, in some cases, with curiosity. Men with long hair always make impact of mystery and strangeness. Untidy hair always makes the impact that this man is not reliable and people tend not to communicate with him. Instead, men with a neat short haircut usually are considered as good professionals and they are often treated better. Besides, as Rieh (2006) says, employers tend to hire men with neat short haircuts because they consider them to be more reliable than people with any other haircut. Our group put this research to the test in the fourth design of our experiment, which measured the impact of hair style on impressions of creditability. Here, we created four different versions of the same man but with different hair styles- him with flat medium brown hair, him bald, and him with long medium brown hair worn down.