The function of ugliness

I am interested in the psychological function of ugliness judgments. Building on previous research on the behavioral immune system, my research suggests that ugliness may have the function to alert us to cues of pathogen threat. As such, ugliness judgments may be the aesthetic dimension of the human disease-avoidance system.

The role of beauty in moral standing attributions

Research in moral psychology has primarily focused on mind perception as a factor increasing the moral standing people attribute to beautiful entities. I am interested in whether beauty is another factor that contributes to the moral standing people place on entities. I found in my research that people attribute more moral standing to beautiful (compared to ugly) people, animals, landscapes and buildings through evoking moral intuitions of purity.

The mechanisms underlying the Beauty-is-Good stereotype

Research on the Beauty-is-Good stereotype suggests that people attribute more positive attributes to attractive compared to unattractive people due to a halo effect (i.e., a positivity bias). I am investigating additional pathways through which physical attractiveness may bias person perceptions. Building on our research that ugliness judgments are linked to the disease-avoidance system, we found that people judge unattractive individuals as particularly likely to engage in moral violations pertaining to the purity domain (e.g., spitting on the street) compared to harm violations (e.g., pinching someone’s arm).