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Hacking attractiveness biases in hiring? The role of beautifying photo-filters

Jonas R. Kunst (Department of Psychology, University of Oslo, Oslo, Norway)
Jannicke Kirkøen (Department of Psychology, University of Oslo, Oslo, Norway)
Onab Mohamdain (Division of Psychology and Language Sciences, UCL, London, UK)

Management Decision

ISSN: 0025-1747

Article publication date: 26 April 2022

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Abstract

Purpose

Physically less attractive job applicants are discriminated against in hiring decisions. In a US context, the authors tested whether appearance-altering photo-filters can exploit this bias, focusing on the moderating role of job type, gender and race as well the mediating role of two major dimensions of person perception (warmth and competence).

Design/methodology/approach

In study 1, 223 managers evaluated White mock applicants presented with or without a beautifying filter for either a position as a social worker or an IT specialist. In study 2, 212 managers evaluated Black and White mock applicants with or without beautifying filters for an HR specialist position.

Findings

In study 1, beautifying filters increased perceived hireability irrespective of job type, but especially when applicants were female. Both male and female applicants whose photos were filtered were perceived as more competent, but only male applicants were perceived as warmer. In study 2, beautifying filters increased the hireability only slightly for White female applicants, followed by White and Black male applicants but substantially for Black female applicants. The filters increased the perceived competence of Black (and especially Black female) applicants but not of White applicants and increased the perceived warmth of all groups except for White females. Warmth and competence partially mediated the observed effects on hireability in both studies.

Originality/value

In the context of widely available technological advances, the authors show that beautifying photo-filters can exploit attractiveness biases, at least at an early hiring stage. The results emphasize the importance of intersecting factors such as gender and race.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

This project was supported by grants from the Norwegian Research Council (Nr. 313682).

Citation

Kunst, J.R., Kirkøen, J. and Mohamdain, O. (2022), "Hacking attractiveness biases in hiring? The role of beautifying photo-filters", Management Decision, Vol. ahead-of-print No. ahead-of-print. https://doi.org/10.1108/MD-06-2021-0747

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2022, Emerald Publishing Limited

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