Studies consistently show that attractive people get higher pay and more job opportunities than the folks who are less attractive. In economic terms, that means an hour in the gym is equivalent to some number of minutes of education. And yet we tend to perceive people who take classes as dedicated contributors to the world's economic engine whereas people who exercise every day seem a tad selfish. Maybe we need to quantify the economic benefits of an hour of education versus an hour of exercise so we know how to get the best bang for the buck.

Healthy people generally have more energy, fewer health problems, less stress, better attitudes, and more influence over people. How much is all of that goodness worth? Would you be better off economically if you exercised daily or if you had a pot belly and a second degree?

Let's say you live in a parallel universe and you're in charge of hiring for your business. Two men apply for the job. As is the custom in this imaginary universe, the applicants submit their job histories and educational backgrounds along with pictures of their torsos. That's all you know about the candidates. They don't even interview in person.

How much more would you be willing to pay the applicant on the right? Let's say the average salary is $100K per year and both applicants are equally good at negotiating for salary. How much more per year would you be willing to pay the fitter applicant, all other things being equal?


[Update: Several of you observed that the original image of the fit person (the one in the middle now) is too scrawny. I added a third image that is more of a gym body (who wears pants correctly) than an under-eater. Now which of the three do you hire, all else being equal?]

The second question is just for the ladies and the men who prefer men. This time the question is how much extra income would the man on the left need to earn to before you found him as attractive (for marriage) as the man on the right. Assume everything else about the two men is equal: same senses of humor, personalities, etc. The only differences are income and fitness. Give me an annual income estimate that makes the two men equivalent from a mating perspective. Assume the man on the right (the fitter one) earns $80K per year. How much would the less-fit man on the left need to earn to be equal marriage material?

My new book, How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big: Kind of the Story of My Life, will be released October 22nd but you can preorder on Amazon.

Rank Up Rank Down Votes:  +17
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Oct 30, 2013
All of these pictures are you.

Nice book, by the way.
-1 Rank Up Rank Down
Oct 14, 2013
I just wanted to add that I would encourage everyone to be fit and healthy, but developing abs that really are defined and "stick out" like that is completely unnatural and requires an unhealthy level of persistence in very specific exercise and dieting. It has absolutely nothing to do with fitness or health, it can even endanger it. At best, it is a cosmetic thing, never a health thing.
0 Rank Up Rank Down
Oct 14, 2013
Meh. I'll put it this way, someone who is 20yo will answer differently than a 30yo, a 40yo, a 50yo, and then those who just like good scenery. It will also depend on how many different men a woman has dated, and whether or not she has been, will be, or is divorced vs. happily married. I don't think your sample size of female readers is large enough to average those factors out.
+5 Rank Up Rank Down
Oct 11, 2013
Why do so many commenters assume narcissist when they see the guys with lean bodies and developed abs?

If my abs looked like any of the 3 torsos, I wouldn't even own a shirt. Since I'm 50 pounds overweight, I'm apparently not a narcissist. But if i was 30 years younger, or had a reason to look fit, would I then be a narcissist?

Can't fit people just enjoy exercise and diet, and be proud of the results they work hard to attain, without it being a personality fault like narcissism?

+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Oct 11, 2013
On a personal level as someone who sometimes dates men: I would absolutely steer clear of the glamour-shot-torso guy, who (purely on a hunch) I'd expect to be a narcissist, and to have gotten away with lots of bad behavior throughout his life (assuming he's also a fairly attractive guy beyond the torso). The other two guys seem like normal dudes, which is a good bet for dating.
+5 Rank Up Rank Down
Oct 11, 2013
1. This test would make more sense if we were presented with an overweight guy, a regular dude, and a regular fit dude who didn't go to Glamour Shots for his torso shot.
2. ARGUABLY some actually overweight people might be telegraphing lack of discipline - although it's clouded by other factors that make fitness much, much harder for some genotypes/phenotypes.
3. ARGUABLY some very, very, very fit people might be telegraphing narcissism, egotism, and self-absorption - although high fitness could also be correlated with tendencies towards self-improvement (good) or perfectionism (good/bad/???).
4. So without enough info to actually assess the candidates for personality, one would be well-advised to choose someone of moderate fitness, since that would seem to be someone with a certain amount of basic lifestyle management skills (balancing intake/output) and without the high possibility of narcissistic traits.
Oct 11, 2013
Ok, the new picture is a better contrast. To answer your question, if absolutely everything between the two guys was identical other than physique (face, personality, how clean he kept his home, etc.), I'd say the other guy would need to make enough to have a noticeably better wardrobe and home (say house vs. condo of the same size) - I don't know what that dollar value would be.

But the odds are everything else won't be the same. The guy on the right is more likely to give me sh*t over MY physique, more likely to be hit on by other women, making it somewhat more likely he'd cheat, and more likely to be vain. But if none of those appy to him, give him my number!
Oct 11, 2013
"Give me an annual income estimate that makes the two men equivalent from a mating perspective."

Maybe I'm not a normal woman, but I have a hard time even adopting that mindset of quantifying attractiveness. Honestly, I really tried to answer the question but it was like trying to think in a foreign language. I don't claim to be above the appeal of money or good looks, but it's too hard for me to think about those things in a vacuum. My husband makes less money than me and he looks more like the guy on the far left than any of the other two, but he's finishing school to get a job in IT and I don't care whether or not he's "cut" as long as he's healthy. Also, I love his personality and I know he cares about me. I know it's sappy, but that's what keeps us together. How good you look with your shirt off or the contents of your bank account are no substitutes for patience, trust, humor and all of the other things that make it so you can live with someone for 50 years.
+6 Rank Up Rank Down
Oct 11, 2013
There is not enough of a difference to matter in any way. With a shirt on their level of fitness would be indistinguishable so unless they are interviewing without a shirt how would you know?
Even then I don't think I would notice a difference. Put 20 lbs on the out of shape guy, now you have something. The other two are virtually identical.
Oct 10, 2013
I'm amazed only one person pointed out that fit != attractive. While it definitely weighs in for most when rating attractiveness having a good body does not make one attractive. This whole exercise is flawed to me. If one of the pictures depicted an overweight individual there may be bias but since one (Mr. Wilson) is only slightly less defined and not overweight there's nothing to really hang a loss of pay on.
Oct 10, 2013
I'm pretty sure now they are all the same guy... identical man nipples on all three. Didn't notice until the third one was posted because I was looking for evidence that it could be the same person.

I take it these are before and after pics. In the beach one he didn't shave his torso and in the 3rd one he'd been working out after awhile.
+10 Rank Up Rank Down
Oct 10, 2013
This blog post is increasingly becoming Carlos Danger-ish.
+5 Rank Up Rank Down
Oct 10, 2013
The guy on the left is Luke Wilson

[Correct. Nice job of image searching. -- Scott]
Oct 8, 2013
I think you should re-phrase the question to "How much less would you be ok with this guy earning to make up for his great abs?"
As for me, I don't even think that way. Looks and money are more of a pass/fail for me, as long as he's able to pay his own way and doesn't have to wear a bag to go out, I'd be much more concerned with other aspects (personality, morals, intelligence.)
Oct 8, 2013
Like chuck.milner I think they are the same guy, although I'm not sure it is actually Scott.
The photos reminded me how DailyLife recently ran an article on how easy it is to fake before and after shot with a little change in lighting and posture:

[The photos are not of the same guy. -- Scott]
Oct 8, 2013

I'm not one in your specified target group for the second question, but the guy on the left looks better than the plucked chicken on the right.

Secondly, a physically fitter person (specially one who is aiming to acquire six-packs in a gym) does not automatically translate into a healthier person.

Thirdly, I would probably pay more for the unfit person, unless I want a President for my company, to simply go around beaming and looking good and spreading cheer, rather than a person who really does some work. A person who does not concentrate too much on his looks is simply likely to be a better person with more knowledge, more social skills and more empathy than the other - making him a better employee. Of course, all this applies only to male interviewees.
Oct 8, 2013
You realize that the "fit" person is in his room taking pictures of himself, while the "unfit" person is out swimming and/or playing. Of the two, I would judge the "unfit" person as having the overall healthier lifestyle, which I would interpret as overall healthier attitude, so I would be more likely to hire him than the other.

[You prefer the guy who has lower standards? -- Scott]
Oct 8, 2013
As a woman, I'd have no problem choosing the guy on the left over the guy on the right. The guy on the left seems to be a healthy weight, so he's doing something right. The guy on the right has a little more ab definition, but no noticable chest, and as much or more lower stomach pooch that the other guy.

I've dated a body builder with an amazing body as well as guys who were skinny or a bit heavy. The body builder made sure I knew he'd dumped his last girlfriend after she gained weight, while the other guys never made such veiled threats. I'll take Joe Average any day!

As for work, a few months ago I had a big project with a hard deadline at the end of the day. I urgently needed input from a guy, and I confronted him around 11:00am (he knew about the assignment for a couple days). I figured it would take him about an hour to get what I needed, so I started looking for him around noon. I kept checking his office every 15 minutes. I was frantic when I finally caught him after 1pm and asked if he was done. No, he hadn't even STARTED! He felt stressed, so he went to the gym for a couple hours. WTF?!! Give me an unfit guy who gets the job done any day!
+6 Rank Up Rank Down
Oct 8, 2013
In IT I'd go for the nerd any day.
Oct 7, 2013
I see 2 photos. On the left is a reasonably fit guy. On the right is a slightly fitter guy who's done a few push-ups and crunches, with better lighting.

My guess is that they're both Scott, with the one on the right after he's had a chest wax and Brazilian.

BTW, where do these 100K a year jobs come from? I've got a Comp Sci degree, years of experience and can program any language/device. But I don't see anyone hiring offering 100K. Most jobs seem to be 6-month contracts with no benefits.
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