Will Mozart or Metallica make you seem more attractive?
The Finnish metal band Apocalyptica (pictured at left) combines classically trained cellists with metal music. According to this research, you are likely to find them very attractive one way or another. Fortunately for you, you do not have to combine metal and Mozart to be optimally attractive. Just ask yourself this (hopefully) simple question: Am I male or female? [If the answer to this question is a struggle for you, contact us and we will recommend a blog you might find more interesting.]
Researchers created a website and then varied whether the website was allegedly the personal website of a male or a female by posting a photo (of either a male or a female). They also varied whether the webpage played a recording of Mozart or Metallica as the page loaded. Undergraduate student participants were asked to rate how attractive they found each person (i.e., the male with Mozart playing, the male with Metallica playing, the female with Metallica playing or the female with Mozart playing).
Men with Metallica playing on their webpage were seen as more attractive.
Women with Mozart playing on their webpage were seen as more attractive.
The researchers say their findings illustrate a sexual double standard. They say “female participants perceived the male website owner with heavy metal background music to be more attractive because men are expected to be tough and somewhat rebellious”. On the other hand, say the researchers, “male participants considered the female website owner with classical music to be more attractive since women are preferred to be the ‘angel in the house’.” Yes, they really say that. [Sometimes research reports tell us a lot about the data. Other times they tell us a lot about the researchers themselves.]
We hope that these research findings illustrate the preferences of this particular group of heterosexual undergraduate students. What we see is that what is attractive, likable, credible, and worthy of empathy varies a lot in actuality.
Typically, we talk a lot about helping jurors see your client as sharing the same universal values as them or making them “like” the jurors even though they may appear quite different on the outside. Recently we did some pretrial research where a head injury had incapacitated a proud Middle Eastern man (and left him unable to appreciate his own incapacitation). His national and ethnic origins had nothing at all to do with the case facts–it was simply there. We call that a “non-salient fact” and it often results in intense bias against the client. So we were vigilant for that sort of bias.
What happened was heart-warming. The mock jurors saw video excerpts from the deposition of the injured man’s wife. Her English was fluent and graceful, but remained markedly accented after more than 25 years in this country. It was apparent in her deposition that their marriage had been arranged during a brief visit by her husband back to his home country. It was also very apparent that they loved each other deeply. She spoke of love, family, commitment, and was one of the most touching, empathy-inducing, and sincere witnesses we have ever seen. But we watched for jurors to casually comment on the arranged marriage, terrorist ties, sexist stereotypes, and other “they are not like us” sorts of commentaries.
What we heard was this:
“For anyone, the loss of capacity would be horrible. But for a proud Middle Eastern man who grew up in a culture where men take care of their wives and family, this has to be devastating.”
“She obviously loves him so much and is as loyal as the day is long.”
“He is ashamed of his behavior that comes from the head injury. He talks about the conflicts with his daughter and how he wonders how his wife still loves him. It is so very sad.”
“This family was the American dream. Now they are living a nightmare and it will only get worse. It’s a horrible thing and it’s just wrong.”
It was heart-warming. It was also a little scary because the reality was the testimony of the Plaintiff’s wife was entirely extra-evidentiary. For jurors, though, her testimony was essential to understanding the real losses (since the Plaintiff thought he was much less impaired than he truly was). Her testimony also convinced jurors that this family, although as foreign to them as a Plaintiff could be, was like the family they all wished for, hoped they had, and held dear. And, said these jurors, someone had to pay and they knew with certainty, just who that ‘someone’ was.
So. Research finds what it finds. What we learned in this particular pre-trial research reassured us and reminded us of a long-standing wisdom:
Beauty is truly in the eyes, ears, and heart of the beholder.
Yang, Q, & Li, C (2013). Mozart or Metallica, who makes you more attractive? A mediated moderation test of music, gender, personality, and attractiveness in cyberspace. Computers in Human Behavior, 29, 2796-2804 DOI: 10.1016/j.chb.2013.07.026