UCL School of Management

Research seminar

A Structural Holes Explanation for Why Beauty Pays


Kathleen O’Connor, Cornell University


Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Being attractive brings better pay and faster promotions. So, too, does having a social network that features more structural holes and weaker ties (Burt & Ronchi, 2006; Seibert, Kraimer & Liden, 2001). Integrating the psychological and economic literature on attractiveness and the organizational behavior literature on social capital and social networks, we posited that attractive people do particularly well at work because they structure their networks to deliver gains.

Hypothesizing that more attractive people will feel more powerful and these feelings will encourage them to pursue network spots richer in social capital opportunity, we conducted two studies. In the first, people who reported being more attractive were more likely to choose network positions richer in social capital (ie brokerage positions). In a follow-up experiment, we primed people to feel very attractive or not very attractive. Those who received the attractive prime were more likely to choose a brokerage positions, and also reported that they felt relatively more powerful. Feelings of powerfulness mediated the effect, in part.

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PhD Programme
Last updated Wednesday, 16 December 2015