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J Appl Psychol. 2009 May;94(3):742-55. doi: 10.1037/a0015497.

Does it pay to be smart, attractive, or confident (or all three)? Relationships among general mental ability, physical attractiveness, core self-evaluations, and income.

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  • 1Department of Management, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32611-7165, USA.


The authors investigated core self-evaluations and educational attainment as mediating mechanisms for the influence of appearance (physical attractiveness) and intelligence (general mental ability) on income and financial strain. The direct effects of core self-evaluations on financial strain, as well as the indirect effects through income, were also considered. Longitudinal data were obtained as part of a national study, the Harvard Study of Health and Life Quality, and proposed models were evaluated with structural equation modeling. Results supported a partially mediated model, such that general mental ability and physical attractiveness exhibited both direct and indirect effects on income, as mediated by educational attainment and core self-evaluations. Finally, income negatively predicted financial strain, whereas core self-evaluations had both a direct and an indirect (through income) negative effect on financial strain. Overall, the results suggest that looks (physical attractiveness), brains (intelligence), and personality (core self-evaluations) are all important to income and financial strain.

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