Answers for Adam: Do you prefer your planner to have a beard?

Answers For Adam After his column last week which said British planners sound more intelligent Adam Ferrier  brings out some evidence to back up his argument. 

The general gist of the comments from last weeks article (do you prefer your agency planners to have British accents) were  a) what silly tripe I was peddling talking about stereotypes, b) I don’t ‘curate’ my own column very well, and c) that I was being generally anti-British. 

Ferrier (disclaimer, he does have a beard)

Ferrier (disclaimer, he does have a beard)

Here’s just one study I came across that says people with a British accent were rated as more intelligent, trustworthy, and attractive than other (Anderson, et al., 2007). However, rather than get bogged down in the studies that support the contention – I’m just amazed how many people really thought that a persons accent makes no difference to how they are perceived – of course your accent impacts people’s perceptions of you, and how intelligent you are.  You don’t need academic evidence to substantiate that – surely?

Here are some other startling insights from the world of the blindingly obvious.  If you have two people side by side saying the same thing then there is research to suggest:

  • The person who wears glasses is going to be perceived as more intelligent (Thornton, 1944). (Interestingly there is also some evidence to suggest people who wears glasses are actually more intelligent too (Cohn, 1988))
  • The person who has a beard is going to be perceived as more intelligent  (Pellegrini, 1972)
  • The person with less piercings will be perceived as more intelligent (Swami, 2012)
  • The taller of the two people (if male) will be seen as more intelligent

So as well as having a British accent, tall planners without piercings but with a beard are, all things being equal, likely to be favoured by our clients (if looking for intelligence).

Just because something seems trivial and everyday doesn’t mean it isn’t beyond questioning.  Stereotypes can be insidious.

My question this week is aimed at the people who were so negative last week “Does this new information change your mind?”

Adam Ferrier is a consumer psychologist and CSO at Cummins & Partners. @adamferrier


Anderson, A., Downs, S.D., Faucette, K., Griffin, J., King, T., Woolstenhulme, S. (2007). How Accents Affect perception of Intelligence, Physical Attractiveness, and Trustworthiness. Intuition: BYU Undergraduate Journal of Psychology, 3, 5-11.

Cohn, S. J.  Cohn, C. M. G, Jensen, A. R. (1988). Myopia and intelligence: a pleiotropic relationship? Human Genetics, 80 (1), 53-58.

Pellegrini, R. J. (1972). “To Beard, Or Not To Beard”: An experimental study in social perception. Presented at the Western Psychological Association meetings, Portland, Oregon, April, 1972.

Swami, Viren; Stieger, Stefan; Pietschnig, Jakob; Voracek, Martin; Furnham, Adrian; Tovée, Martin J. (2012) European Psychologist, The influence of facial piercings and observer personality on perceptions of physical attractiveness and intelligence.  Vol 17(3),  213-221


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