Does tanness mean goodness? Perceptions of tan skin in hiring decisions

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In US culture, tan skin is portrayed as attractive and healthy. In turn, people tend to rate tan people more positively along these dimensions. In the current investigation, we examined whether tan individuals would be rated more favorably than non-tan individuals in a hiring context. Using Mechanical Turk, an online data collection system, we presented adult participants with an original photo of a job applicant or a digitally manipulated tanned photo (Study 1: N = 121, Study 2: N = 268). In both studies, participants in the tan conditions rated the applicant more favorably than those in the non-tan conditions. Study 2 demonstrated that more positive evaluations of tan applicants were mediated by perceptions of increased attractiveness among these individuals. Results support the “what is beautiful is good” hypothesis, and suggest that employers be made aware of the “tan bias” and that future research examine this bias in contexts beyond the workplace.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-15
Number of pages15
JournalNorth American Journal of Psychology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 1 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • General Psychology


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