Wearing glasses can dramatically change your appearance, and the right pair will highlight your features and make you feel good.
However, there is now evidence that being a spectacles-wearer can also change the perspectives of those around you. The historical stereotype is, of course, that people who wear glasses are more intelligent. I call this the “specs effect”, and it can be used to your advantage – for example, it’s now recommended that you wear your specs on for a job interview as it makes you look smarter!
A number of recent studies in psychology have explored this myth further, to try and understand our bias. One study included 76 participants,who rated 78 different facial images for six different personality traits.
The image set included 26 images of faces without glasses, 26 images of faces with full-rimmed glasses, and 26 images of faces with rimless glasses. All the images were ranked by all of the participants and they had to decide the success, intelligence, trustworthiness, attractiveness, likability, and cooperativeness of the different faces on the basis of the image alone!
This study provided no background information to the participants about the images, in order to learn more about their preconceived ideas and stereotypes of the types of people who wear glasses.
The results were very interesting; there was no bias towards faces with rimless glasses, therefore their ranking did not differ from faces without glasses for attractiveness or likability – you are scientifically just as gorgeous whilst wearing your rimless specs as you are without them. However, you also appear more trustworthy, intelligent and successful in them, so you’re officially perceived as a “better” version of you.
In fact, this study showed that all individuals, regardless of sartorial choices, were ranked as more successful and more intelligent-looking, than the other photographs of people who were not wearing glasses. The results of the studies genuinely show that glasses do have a real effect upon how you are evaluated by other people, and that this impact is positive.
But why do people preferentially rate people who wear glasses as more successful, trustworthy and intelligent? We need to look back into the past to understand this. Historically, people who were educated, wealthy or academics were more likely to be glasses-wearers, but also there might be some self-selection at play.
Perhaps the individuals who wore glasses whilst they were growing up, were more likely to spend time reading and studying, than to risk breaking their specs on the sports field?
Finally, another study from the University Medical Center in Germany investigated 4,600 short-sighted Germans between the ages of 35 and 74. Their study showed that about 53% of their participants had completed a degree, a very large proportion, even for a European nation!
This is just one piece of research though, and it is unlikely that your intelligence is determined by your glasses. However, I think it’s best to be on the safe side, so I’ll be wearing my favourite pair of glasses at my next study group!