Accuracy of Stereotypes:
What Research on Physical
Attractiveness Can Teach Us
Richard D. Ashmore and Laura C. Longo
The folk wisdom injunction, "Don't judge a book by its cover," suggests that stereotypes based on observed physical characteristics may not be accurate. With regard to physical attractiveness in particular, this stance is evident in the notion that "beauty is only skin deep." At the same time, there is no reason to assume that stereotypes are by definition inaccurate (Ashmore & Del Boca, 1981), and there are conceptual (e.g., Campbell, 1967) and empirical (e.g., McCauley & Stitt, 1978) reasons to think that stereotypes might reflect actual group characteristics. Our view is that the accuracy—inaccuracy of stereotypes depends on several factors. We, thus, join a tradition of social scientists concerned with identifying the conceptual and empirical issues involved in determining the accuracy of social perception.
Cronbach (1955) distinguished four components of global accuracy scores in person perception research (i.e., elevation, differential elevation,____________________
Correspondence concerning this chapter should be addressed to Richard D. Ashmore, Department of Psychology, Tillett Hall, Livingston Campus, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, New Jersey 08903.