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How Wearing Glasses Impacts Your Success, According to Science


I’ve always hated wearing glasses. I’m a regular at 1-800-Contacts. One day last month, I accidentally slept through my alarm. If I took the time to put on my contacts, I’d surely be late for my 9 AM meeting. So I grabbed my glasses and sprinted out the door. 

I decided to do some digging to determine whether there is research to support my unexpected experiences that day. Does our eyewear selection (or lack thereof) alter others’ perceptions of us? The answer is a resounding yes. 

In fact, you and I can become more successful by strategically altering our eyewear selection. Thanks to the rise of non-prescription glasses, even those with 20/20 vision can reap rewards. 

Full-rim glasses 

Classic “nerd” glasses, most of us instinctually associate full-rim glasses with higher levels of intelligence. In one study published in the European Journal of Social Psychology, when shown images of males wearing glasses, participants were more likely to associate the males with an occupation associated with high levels of intelligence–physician, lawyer, or professor, for example. 

In fact, the relationship between glasses and intelligence is more than mere perception. A 2012 study published in Ophthalmology and citing the results of a Gutenberg Health Study found that people who wear glasses are actually more intelligent. Researchers conjecture that eyeglass wearers are less likely to partake in outdoor activities (perhaps for fear of damaging their fragile eyeglasses). They are more inclined to stay inside, become bookworms so to speak, and achieve top scores on IQ tests. 

In addition to appearing more intelligent, people who wear full-rim glasses are seen as more distinctive, according to a 2011 study published in the Swiss Journal of Psychology. They are gifted with more eye contact and overall attention. 

Thus, there are two key scenarios for which I recommend wearing full-rim glasses: 

  • Applying for a new job. Interviewers are very focused on assessing your intelligence. Indeed, research such as a 2007 study published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin has revealed that job candidates who wear glasses are more likely to succeed in job interviews. 
  • Meetings where you want to be the center of attention. Participants may give you more attention and you may be privy to more eye contact. 

Rimless glasses

The major downfall associated with wearing full-rim glasses is that doing so causes us to be perceived as less attractive and likable, according to a 2011 study published in the Swiss Journal of Psychology. Fortunately, as compared to wearing full-rim glasses, wearing rimless glasses causes us to be seen as more attractive and more trustworthy. What’s more, when we wear rimless glasses, we still benefit from others perceiving us as more intelligent–though less so than our full-rimmed counterparts. 

Don rimless spectacles in situations where you want to balance likability and intelligence and garner high levels of trust, including: 

  • Interacting with customers. Increased likability will allow you to build relationships, while increased intelligence will cause you to be seen as a trusted advisor. 
  • Interacting with senior staff members. You’re more likely to demonstrate that you exhibit a balance of the social skills and know-how necessary to advance the corporate hierarchy. 

Contact lenses 

Several studies show that people who wear contact lenses are seen as more attractive and likable than those who wear spectacles. In one 2008 study published in the American Journal of Forensic Psychology, juries were more lenient with defendants who didn’t wear glasses. 

Opt for contact lenses in situations where your primary objective is to be seen as attractive and likable: 

  • Asking for a raise or asking for forgiveness. The other side may be more lenient when considering your requests. 
  • Workplace social events. You may avoid being seen as socially awkward and build a stronger rapport with colleagues.

Why not spend some time to perfect the art of eyewear selection? Make a note on your calendar denoting which type of glasses–full-rim (“FR”), rimless (“RL”), or contact lenses (“CL”)–you intend to wear depending on your schedule for the day. Perhaps Mondays are “FR” by default–you may find yourself in those important Monday meetings where you want participants to give you their full attention. Perhaps Fridays are “CL”–when you attend your company’s “Happy Hours” and prefer to be seen as social and likable (my colleagues are much more likely to divulge the latest workplace gossip if I’m donning glasses). Interacting with customers? Sounds like an “RL” day. 

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.


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