Lookism is discriminatory treatment toward people who are considered physically unattractive, mainly in the workplace but it is also practiced in dating and other social settings.[1] While not classified in the same way as racial, cultural, sexual discrimination, "lookism" is widespread and affects how people are perceived as well as affecting their opportunities in terms of romantic relationships, job opportunities, etc.[citation needed]

Physical attractiveness is associated with good things; in contrast, physical unattractiveness is associated with negative things. Many people make judgments of others based on their physical appearance that influence how they respond to those people. Research on the "What is beautiful is good" stereotype shows that, overall, those who are physically attractive benefit from their good looks: physically attractive individuals are perceived more positively and physical attractiveness has a strong influence on judgment of a person's competence.[2] In return, physically attractive people benefit from these stereotypical beliefs. Research shows that on average, physically attractive individuals have more friends, better social skills, and more active sex lives.[3]


Though the term "lookism" is of recent coinage, cultures and traditions worldwide have often warned against placing undue value on physical appearance:

To judge by appearances is to get entangled in the Veil of Maya [in Buddhist thought] ... From ancient times until relatively recently, there was widespread worry about lookism, because the appearance of others may deceive, especially in romance, or it may be personally or politically imprudent to judge or act on appearances. Judging by appearances was prohibited by monotheistic religions ("no graven images") and criticized in ancient and medieval philosophies. Skeptics, Stoics, Cynics, Epicureans and Scholastics elaborated various reasons to avoid or subordinate the role of appearances.[4]

However, the term "lookism" was first coined in the 1970s within the fat acceptance movement. It was used in The Washington Post Magazine in 1978, which asserted that the term was coined by fat people who created the word to refer to "discrimination based on looks."[5] The word appears in several major English language dictionaries.[6] There is some overlap between the terms teratophobia, cacophobia and lookism.[7][8]