Looks make the CEO, according to Duke study

The (Raleigh) News & ObserverApril 27, 2010 

Becoming a corporate CEO is supposed to involve hard work, long hours and business acumen.

It also often requires a solid jaw line and small, piercing eyes, according to a new research study from three finance professors at Duke University.

Titled "A Corporate Beauty Contest," the study asked nearly 2,000 people, mostly college and graduate school students, to rate the facial traits of corporate CEOs alongside non-CEOs and the heads of smaller companies. The results suggest that looks do indeed matter in corporate board rooms.

"Our results suggest that CEOs who look competent have higher pay, but their companies do not necessarily do better," said Manju Puri, who wrote the study along with fellow Fuqua School of Business finance professors Campbell Harvey and John Graham. "So that should be a matter of concern."

Those deemed less competent tended to be baby-faced with large round eyes, high eyebrows and a small chin.

"People tend to rate such people as being more likable, more warm, more trustworthy, but less competent," Puri said.

The study was conducted online and included only photos of white males who were taken from a 2004 database of CEOs. The participants did not know who the men in the photos were. All the photos were of men in business dress in conventional poses in front of bland backgrounds.

"If we have someone skiing, we can't really use that as a picture," Puri said.

In one part of the study, participants were presented with 87 pairs of photos — one CEO and one non-CEO — and asked to note which person was more competent, trustworthy, likable and attractive.

The professors got the idea from a 2005 study that showed that elections were often won by the better-looking politician. Harvey said that while the corporate world doesn't appear to be as shallow as the political arena, the results were still surprising.

To read the complete article, visit www.newsobserver.com.

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