Attractive female students achieve higher exam grades than their less attractive colleagues, a US study has found.
Researchers at Metropolitan State University of Denver put more than 5,000 students into three groups: more attractive, average, and less attractive, based on photographs rated by outside volunteers. They then looked at 103,803 of the students’ grades.
The economists who conducted the study, Rey Hernández-Julián and Christina Peters, found that less attractive women were punished three times more than more attractive women were rewarded.
The study’s results found that less attractive women had grades 1.5% lower than the average group, and the most attractive women had grades 0.5% higher than the average group.
However the same rule doesn’t apply to male students, whose grades showed no correlation to perceived attractiveness.
This difference in grades completely disappeared when the students were graded online, and had never met the marker. Instead, it was the students who had met and seen their tutors who either benefited or lost out.
The study also found that it did not matter whether the marker was male or female: both genders rewarded attractiveness with higher grades.
Hernández-Julián told Inside Higher Ed: “Is it that professors invest more time and energy into the better-looking students, helping them learn more and earn the higher grades? Or do professors simply reward the appearance with higher grades given identical performance?
“The likely answer, given our growing understanding of the prevalence of implicit biases, is that professors make small adjustments on both of these margins”, he said.