Males wooing women can get away with acting a little creepy if they're good-looking, but the homely ones are out of luck, suggests a new study out of Eastern Kentucky University. To gauge their perceptions of men, researchers showed 170 female college students two male faces with similar features—one considered attractive, the other not so much—alongside two scenarios. In what the study in Gender Issues describes as a "low violation" scenario, the male asks to borrow a pen; in the "high violation" or "disconcerting" scenario, he suggests she try modeling and asks to take her photo. The women were then asked a series of questions, including whether they would comply; most said yes to the pen and no to the photo, regardless of how attractive the man was. But they also ranked each man as to how friendly, ambitious, mean, rude, and creepy (and more) he was. In the low-violation case, both men's personalities were perceived to be similar.
But in the modeling scenario, "the perceptions of the facially attractive male's personality were significantly less negative ... than the perceptions of (the) facially unattractive male's personality." As researcher Jeremy Gibson puts it, "The unattractive male is tolerated up to a point; his unattractiveness is OK until he misbehaves." The researchers call it a "double" devil effect, Science Daily reports: The bad behavior and the unattractiveness combine, and the negative perception is magnified. This has real-world implications, says researcher Jonathan Gore. "A man who stands trial has already shown himself to have violated social norms in one way or another. If he is also unattractive, the magnified devil effect ... could influence how negatively jurors view him and, as a result, the degree to which they believe him guilty of the crime." (Need help in the looks department? Tilt your head.)