There are (at least) two ways to interpret the virtue-beauty link. The view which is ridiculous is something like a link between beauty and traits like skin color or symmetry of facial features.
A view that is not so ridiculous is that one's facial expressions tend to reflect one's character. For example, a "good" person might smile with a "radiant" beauty, while a "bad" person might have an ugly sneer of contempt or hatred. (If one sees a sneer (or another negative expression) as an expression of emotional pain rather than a consciously chosen attack, then the expression may evoke compassion rather than disgust.)
Unfortunately, many people are fooled by those who know how to act good/beautiful (smiling, laughing, etc.) while hiding less noble intentions.
Excellent comments, and focused on the right questions. But is the "beauty" that a "good" person exhibits objectively visible, or is it really a phenomenon in the mind of an observer who knows about the "goodness"?
It seems to me that it would be a cheap and enlightening experiment to take photos (or movie clips, if that works better?) of a bunch of little-known "good" people (e.g., Nobel Peace Prize winners from several decades ago?!) and mix them in with images of "bad" people --- then let observers attempt to differentiate. Given the huge popularity of "Rate My " web sites, I bet somebody could pretty trivially do it online --- though the voting sample would then be rather uncontrolled and the results would be somewhat questionable, eh?! Double-blind tests are better.
If there's a genuine "beauty" effect from virtue (virtuosity?!) then how strong is the correlation? How many years of good deeds does it take to get really pretty? Do Eagle Scouts look more handsome than Tenderfoots (Tenderfeet?!)? Are supermodels who deliberately choose to wear fur less attractive than those who are devout vegetarians? Does the phenomenon cut across cultures, races, belief systems, etc.? (How about religions which differ in their definitions of "goodness"?!) And does the Beauty Effect apply to other body parts besides the face, or is there something magical-mystical (Mirror of the Soul) about that particular part of the anatomy?
There are quite a number of good psychology/philosophy experiments begging to be done here --- why haven't they already been performed? I'm just an ignorant former physicist ... please show me the data! (^_^) ... ^z
TopicPhilosophy - Datetag20031215
Ah, but the personality quality does shine though... Who has not experienced the sudden and surprising sense of beauty in an "ugly" face that softens in love or shines up in an innocent smile? And what of the model-beautiful face turned harsh and ugly by bitterness, spite and hate?
We have all seen this. The fallacy is in how less capable/perceptive authors and artists work from superficial outer concepts of beauty to convey an inner "moral" quality.
Some research has been made into the telling fact that a "too perfect" face, lacking imperfections and other context becomes perceived as no longer beautiful -- rather instead chilling and sinister in some undefinable way.
This too has been "known" long. Perfection in dieties and angels was originally described using terms associated with abject fear (the original meaning of awe). How this fearful meaning segued into admiration and adoration is intriguing in its own right. -- Bo Leuf