Academics like to think that rational, intellectual thought motivates their decisions. But a new book, Beauty Pays: Why Attractive People Are More Successful, reveals that even scholars let looks influence them.
The author describes a study he conducted with members of the American Economic Association. Like many scholarly societies, the AEA holds competitive elections for officers and include photographs of the candidates along with the ballots.
He had subjects rate the relative attractiveness of the candidates and found that, “The results show that moving from the 84th to the 16th percentile of looks lowers a candidate’s chance of winning the election — of obtaining this honor — from 56 percent to 44 percent.”
These conclusions hold even when adjusting for gender and scholarly accomplishments. The study and others correlating attractiveness with professors’ salary reveal the persistent bias that governs many seemingly objective decisions.