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Generous people are hotter. Science says so

Want to be more attractive? Try being more charitable, a new academic study says

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Steve Loewy donates several boxes of cereal as Jazz forward Trevor Booker hosts his “Booker’s Breakfast Assist,” a cereal donation program to give back to the Salt Lake community, at the 9th and 9th Smith’s Food & Drug in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Sept. 19, 2015. A new study reveals that people who practice more giving behaviors are perceived as more attractive.

Stacie Scott, Deseret News

Paul McCartney was onto something when he sang, “The love you take is equal to the love you make.”

Generosity might make you seem more attractive, according to a new study published in Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly. The study, co-authored by Indiana University associate professor Sara Konrath and University of Pennsylvania professor Femida Handy, confirms some common notions of beauty while refuting others. 

Over three large studies that focused on different ages, Konrath and Handy asked two major questions: Are people who practice more giving behaviors rated as more physically attractive? And are more physically attractive people more likely to practice these giving behaviors?

The study noted “the halo effect wherein more physically attractive people are perceived to be good, and the reverse halo that good is seen as beautiful. Yet research has rarely examined the evidence linking the beautiful with the good, or the reverse, without the halo effect.”

According to futurity.org, which highlights research from top universities, this new study had participants rate physical attractiveness without any info about the giving behaviors of those being rated. This helped researchers determine the true correlation between physical attractiveness and charitable acts. And the correlation was strong.

According to Konrath, this new study has real value because it challenges the notion that physically attractive people are inherently more vain.

Added Handy, “Although we cannot fully explain why the link between giving behaviors and attractiveness exists, we find remarkable consistency across the three studies, despite being conducted at different times, using different participants, and using different methods and measures.”

Though this may be the most comprehensive study on this topic so far, it certainly isn’t the first. A 2018 data analysis by eharmony and JustGiving, for example, showed that in the realm of online dating profiles, connections between charity and attractiveness were strong. Singles who referenced some kind of philanthropy in their profile received 34% more communications than those who didn’t mention philanthropy. And eharmony users who appeared more innately generous, according to the website’s Relationship Questionnaire, got approximately 80% more messages. 

Konrath summed up her study’s findings thusly: “Perhaps being generous could be the next beauty trend.”