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Do we negatively perceive people who wear glasses? If so, why? Is it cultural stereotypes, a simple case of homophily, or is there more to it?

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I don't understand why this got a downvote –  user3543 Oct 31 '13 at 8:41

2 Answers 2

up vote 6 down vote accepted

No, people wearing glasses are not generally perceived negatively. Glasses affect various dimensions of person perception differently. To name a few, a commonly reported effect you may want to read up on is the glasses stereotype: If you wear glasses, people will tend to think of you as smarter (e.g., Hellström & Tekle, 1994, Terry & Krantz, 1993), but less attractive compared to those not wearing glasses (Hasart & Hutchinson, 1993; Lundberg & Sheehan, 1994; Terry & Kroger, 1976). This effect has been found regardless of whether the judges wear glasses themselves, although, when they do, the effect on attractiveness appears to be less pronounced (Terry & Kroger, 1976).

It appears, this effect is also moderated by the type of glasses you wear:

The results show that faces without glasses were seen more attractive and more likeable than faces with full-rim glasses. Faces with rimless glasses did not differ from faces without glasses in their attractiveness or likability rating. Regarding the ratings of successfulness, and intelligence, the results show that individuals wearing glasses (both rimless and full-rim) were rated as more successful and more intelligent than individuals not wearing glasses. Regarding trustworthiness, individuals with rimless glasses were rated as significantly more trustworthy than faces without glasses. Ratings of cooperativeness did not differ between the face versions.

(From this online summary of Leder, Forster & Gerger, 2011)

  • Hasart, J. K., & Hutchinson, K. L. (1993). The effects of eyeglasses on perceptions of interpersonal-attraction. Journal of Social Behavior and Personality, 8, 521-528.

  • Hellström, A., & Tekle, J. (1994). Person perception through facial photographs: Effects of glasses, hair, and beard on judgments of occupation and personal qualities. European Journal of Social Psychology, 24, 693-705. doi:10.1002/ejsp.2420240606

  • Leder, H., Forster, M., & Gerger, G. (2011). The glasses stereotype revisited: Effects of glasses on perception, recognition and impressions of faces. Swiss Journal of Psychology, 70, 211-222. doi:10.1024/1421-0185/a000059

  • Lundberg, J. K., & Sheehan, E. P. (1994). The effects of glasses and weight on perceptions of attractiveness and intelligence. Journal of Social Behavior and Personality, 9, 753-760.

  • Terry, R. L. and Krantz, J. H. (1993), Dimensions of Trait Attributions Associated with Eyeglasses, Men's Facial Hair, and Women's Hair Length. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 23: 1757–1769. doi: 10.1111/j.1559-1816.1993.tb01064.x

  • Terry, R. L., & Kroger, D. L. (1976) Effects of eye correctives on ratings of attractiveness. Perceptual and Motor Skills: Volume 42, Issue , pp. 562-562. doi: 10.2466/pms.1976.42.2.562

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Moral of the story: wear rimless glasses even if you don't need them. –  Artem Kaznatcheev Oct 31 '13 at 3:38

The simple answer is that it depends on the person.

Whenever you're talking about a perception, you have to first realize that perceptions are built on many things. Since a person's upbringing, social group, age, IQ, beliefs, expectations, and past experiences (to name a few) can affect one's perceptions, there is rarely a simple answer as to if, or why someone would have a particular perception.

That said, here's a few things that could have an effect on someone's perception.

People could very well have positive perceptions of people that wear glasses. There can be the perception that people with glasses are smarter/more intelligent and if the perceiver also wears glasses, it would be something they have in common, thus making them perceive them in a more positive light.

On the negative side, there could be the perception that those with glasses are weaker, old, more fragile or genetically inferior than they are. However, from my experience, generally the only people that have a negative percept of those that wear glasses are children and teens who are simply trying to find something different about another person in order to tease them, (or worse) not because of any thought out reason.

This would probably line up with parts of homophile, but not in the truest sense of the word as it would depend on the person.

As far as cultural stereotypes, they can surely affect one's perceptions of a people group. however, these stereotypes can be both good and bad.

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I would say that it depends on the glasses. Do they look good or ugly? Are they the smart nerd type of glasses, or the blind, bulgy eyed kind? –  what Oct 31 '13 at 16:16

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