If Kids Don't Trust You, You Might Be Ugly

The Goonies Sloth
The Goonies | Warner Bros.
The Goonies | Warner Bros.

In addition to being loud, messy bundles of joy that will occupy at least 18 years of your life, it turns out that kids are also incredibly shallow. Well, your children are cultured, mature, and probably the smartest in their class, of course. But most kids are scientifically proven to be superficial jerks.

Sure, they may seem innocent and trusting, but apparently not when it comes to ugly people, according to a new study. The flip side is also true: kids are more likely to trust those who are ridiculously good-looking. Parents, maybe it's time to start telling your kids, "Never talk to attractive strangers."

Kids are just as shallow as adults

It’s no secret adults prefer beautiful people. It’s why bikini-clad models are used to sell hamburgers, and why Chris Pratt has been in pretty much every movie that’s come out since 2014. Psychologists have long been aware of humankind's infinite capacity for superficiality, calling it the “beauty-is-good” stereotype.

This bias extends to all areas of life; attractive people, the stereotype goes, are probably smart, successful, and kind. It's a bullshit notion, of course, but it’s a character flaw most humans can’t seem to shake. The phenomenon is even present in babies, to give you an idea of how deeply ingrained it is.

But science had yet to take a closer look at kids, who really should be viewing the world with childlike wonder -- that's why it's called childlike. After studying a group of children aged eight, 10, and 12, it’s clear they aren’t as angelic as they appear.

Attractive people are easier to trust

For the study, researchers used face-generation software to create fake adult male faces, and asked each kid to rate how trustworthy the person seemed. A month later, the researchers used the same faces, and this time asked kids to rate how good-looking they thought each person was. Shocker: The kids almost overwhelmingly associated the beautiful people as being more trustworthy.

They also found that superficiality just gets worse over time; the 8-year-olds weren’t quite as shallow as the 12-year-olds. The doctors then compared the kid group to the same study done in adults. Also not shocking: Grown-ups are even bigger assholes.

So basically, kids hate ugly people almost as much as adults do, and everyone's terrible. The good news is that beauty is still in the eye of the beholder, so there's a pretty wide range of people who will trust you -- and at least if you’re feeling self-conscious about your appearance, you probably don’t have to worry about children bugging you.

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Christina Stiehl is a health writer at Thrillist who always knew kids were superficial jerks. Follow her on Twitter: @ChristinaStiehl.