There is a common trope in American movies that smart people wear glasses and attractive people do not, but does this stereotype exist in other parts of the world? A study published in Cureus suggests that in Jordan, wearing glasses can make people appear less intelligent.
A very common trope in Western media is that the nerdy girl takes off her glasses and people notice that she’s actually beautiful. This serves to reinforce two different stereotypes: that smart people wear glasses and that attractive people do not. Beauty standards vary by country and culture, making it difficult to know if these ideas generalize to other parts of the world. This study seeks to address this gap in literature by assessing the perception of people wearing glasses in Jordan, an Arabic country.
For their study, Said Aldeen AlRyalat and colleagues utilized 517 participants from five universities in Jordan. Approximately 70% of participants did not wear glasses. Participants completed measures on demographic information, education, and whether or not they wear glasses. They were then shown 8 photographs, 4 of people wearing glasses and 4 of people not wearing glasses and asked to rate each photo on attractiveness, confidence, and intelligence. Photographs showed both female and male people who had Arabic features and were approximately college aged.
Results showed that participants who did not wear glasses rated pictures of people not wearing glasses significantly higher in attractiveness than they rated pictures of people wearing glasses. In contrast to previous research on Western samples, participants in this study rated intelligence lower for pictures of people wearing glasses. Additionally, participants rated the pictures of people without glasses as more confident than people with glasses.
“The effect of wearing eyeglasses on intelligence perception varied among different areas and ethnicities. While our study showed a negative impact of wearing eyeglasses on intelligence rating, studies on western populations found a positive impact on intelligence perception for images and people wearing eyeglasses, where this variability is probably due to different cultural associations with wearing eyeglasses,” the researchers explained.
“In a study conducted in France, people with eyeglasses were considered of higher socio-professional status than without glasses. Another study found a positive impact of eyeglasses on one’s image of competency and warmth. The positive impact of eyeglasses on intelligence perception is also found in older studies on the western population. In a study assessing intelligence level among a large cohort with different refractive errors, the authors found a higher level of intelligence and education among myope compared to no refractive error.”
“Compared to western studies where eyeglasses have a positive impact on the intelligence image of a person, our study that included participants of Arabian ethnicities rated images with glasses with lower intelligence scores compared to images without glasses, which might represent a sort of social stigma related to wearing glasses among Jordanians,” the researchers said.
The study, “The Effect of Wearing Eyeglasses on the Perception of Attractiveness, Confidence, and Intelligence“, was authored by Saif Aldeen AlRyalat, Mohammed Jumaah, Sari W. Al Hajaj, Faisal Al-Noaaimi, Yazan Alawneh, and Asad Al-Rawashdeh.