You've stayed in school, stayed off drugs and made the right friends. Dollar bills should be raining down on you like a ticker tape parade, right?
Not if you've got these completely arbitrary factors working against you. Studies show that ...
If given the chance, Science will jump over mountains to point out that we're more superficial than we think. The business world is no exception -- in fact, a study by Duke University found that "competent looks" had a direct correlation to the paycheck of a given CEO. The traits that implied competence were craggy, rugged, mature facial features, presumably because we want business leaders who go home to wrestle a bear in a log cabin. Fair enough.
But that study mostly involved white CEOs. A study of black CEOs found the exact opposite -- their success was directly related to how "baby-faced" they were.
"Give this man a pacifier and make him our new CFO!"
Here's how they figured out the correlation: Whiteys were shown 40 headshots of black men, white women and white men who were current or former CEOs of Fortune 500 companies. Then the subjects were asked to judge personalities based on the headshots, because we really don't judge people based on their headshots enough in this world. Did the people look competent? Warm and friendly? How much money did they make? Were they good in bed? Did they pee in the shower? You know, the usual things you can tell from a headshot.
So then things took a turn for the oddly specific. Black men who had rounder faces were perceived to not only earn more money but have higher positions within their companies. The crazy part was that those ridiculous predictions were right! The black guys with baby faces really did earn more money than their black counterparts who were more facially chiseled. Can you guess why? If your answer started with an "r" and rhymed with "fascism" if "fascism" had a long "a" sound, then you're right. One of the researchers put it this way:
To function effectively as an African-American male in the U.S. it helps to have a disarming mechanism.
"No, sir, his face is pretty square. I figured it's better to be safe than sorry, you know?"
And by "disarming mechanism," he means something that makes white people think you're not out to hurt them, even though they're asking for it by requiring a disarming mechanism in the first place. In this case, the thing that helped these real world CEOs get ahead in their field was something they couldn't help -- the shape of their face. But there are other times when a Harvard degree, friendly smiles or a pair of suspenders can do the trick. Look at President Obama, after all. No one can say that lean BHO is sporting a baby face. Except the president happens to have another trick up his sleeve:
Big ears or a simple smile can disarm one's appearance from suggested perceptions of threat that might otherwise be associated with black males. This could serve to increase the appeal of the president or even one of Hollywood's most successful actors -- Will Smith.
Plus, you know he was only in one little fight before his mom stepped in and rewarded him with luxury.
Here's one more reason future historians will be baffled by Arnold Schwarzenegger's biography: Research shows that people with hard-to-pronounce names are far less likely to be hired or promoted. That's regardless of race or background -- a white American male named Steve Jones has a better chance than the exact same guy named Pfifillnx Bl'xnes.
"What? This is bullshit! We'll see what the ACLU has to say about this!"
Why? Well, people just get a better first impression from someone whose name they don't trip over, and studies show they even feel better about themselves when saying a more pronounceable name. That little bit of embarrassment and self-consciousness a boss feels when worrying if he or she is saying a name right can make the difference between a job offer and an awkwardly mispronounced rejection.
But a person's name starts charting their destiny long before they even get to the job stage. For instance, as we've mentioned before, parents should think long and hard before bestowing "unique" or "stupid" names upon their children. A batshit insane name can put a kid on the fast track to a life of orange jumpsuits and prison tattoos -- kids with "creative" names are statistically more likely to commit crimes later on in life.
"I don't know about this, pXr14. What if we get caught?"
And if you give a boy a feminine name like Shelby or Alexis or Sue, he's much more likely to have behavioral problems, just like Johnny Cash prophesied. But here's the catch: The trouble doesn't start until junior high, when your boy named Tracy is suddenly thrown into a mix of kids who haven't heard his name for the last six years and are also in junior high. At that point, a boy with a traditionally girly name is one-third more likely to end up in detention for acting out. So that sucks for the kid whose parents were blind to the fact that boys don't like having girls' names. But it also sucks for his classmates, because guess what happens when you're sharing a classroom with a little boy badass named Molly? The teacher is forced to manage angry Molly instead of teach. And everyone suffers. Experts estimate that for every disruptive kid in a class of 30, his or her peers' math scores drop by 2.2 national percentile points.
Not that the news is entirely bad. After all, not only are girls with masculine names more likely to be interested in math and science, but female lawyers with butch names are three times more likely to become judges.
All rise! The Honorable Razorback Hulkhogan presiding.
Everyone from your mom to John Hughes movies to your mom (again) have told you one thing about popular high school kids: Their days are numbered. The real world doesn't care who sat at the cool table, and if we study hard, we'll end up owning the Porsche, and that jerk quarterback will end up washing it. And be bald and fat, for some reason. Probably because God hated him and loved you all along, just as you suspected.
Unfortunately, research says our pro-geek, anti-cool-kids fantasies are usually bullshit.
"But my mom says the road to wealth is paved with Silver Age comics and schematics of the Enterprise."
Not only is high school popularity worth big bucks out in the real world, but high social status pays out dividends for over 30 years after graduating. In one longitudinal study, high school students were asked to list three of their friends in their class. Kids who got the most nominations from fellow students were labeled "popular." They also got satin jackets with their nicknames embroidered on the back, but that wasn't part of the survey.
Cut to 35 years later, because that's what happens when you're doing a longitudinal study. Researchers went back to the former students to check up on their income levels. And the populars were CLEANING UP. Like, picking up everyone else, dipping their heads in buckets of cleaning solvent and mopping the floors with their heads, metaphorically. For every high school era friendship nomination, those surveyed could expect a 2 percent bump in income. At the end of the day, the top fifth of the class was earning 10 percent more than the bottom fifth. Remember, this is the top fifth in sheer popularity, not grades or intelligence or teacher-banging skills.
Oh, come on. Like you've never banged your latex-clad algebra professor who insists on wearing a graduation cap.
So at this point you might be thinking that it makes sense that friendly, extroverted kids are most likely to go on to lead successful lives, but that wasn't what the survey indicated. At the same time that students who received the most nominations were labeled "popular," the students who handed out the most nominations were labeled "gregarious" or "friendly." There was zero link between these nice guys and increased income. ZERO.
So much for just trying to be a good person, huh, kids?
"Don't even look at me, Dad. You bring our family so much shame."