Are your looks landing you better grades?

We’ve all heard of studies claiming that attractive people enjoy advantages, such as earning more money and are generally perceived as being smarter. Two economists, Rey Hernandez-Julian and Christina Peters, set out to determine exactly why this is. They hypothesized that perhaps other factors come into play such as confidence, various personality traits or greater effort given, not solely appearance that influences these benefits. They set out to Metropolitan State University of Denver to test their theory, with some interesting results.

Overall, attractive students did receive better grades than their less attractive peers. However, when taking online courses, more attractive students didn’t receive better grades. The more attractive the student, the larger the difference in grades between traditional and online classes. In other words, in virtual classes where students couldn’t be seen, the difference in grades between the more and less attractive students narrowed.

Peters, an associate professor at MSU Denver told the Washington Post, “we really thought it was just that more attractive people have other personality traits, other skills. But it does appear to be some type of actual discrimination on the part of the professors. That surprised us.” The study also determined that better looking professors were ranked higher by their students as well.

Though more attractive students did receive higher grades in traditional in-person classes, the difference was small. For example, the deviation would be from an A- to a B+ for the less attractive student. Still the fact that the bias exists at all is concerning.

The question now becomes if professors do possess these biases, how can they be fixed? It is likely not being done intentionally so it will take a commitment to consciously not grading in a biased fashion to avoid. Is it even possible to enforce something like that?

What do you think? Do attractive students fare better in class?

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