Looks matter. We know that those with greater attractiveness scores are treated differently in the bar, club, and the classroom. While there has been research that look at how group attractiveness scores pick up the individual scores (if you’re hanging out with hot people, you appear hotter) there has never been a study of the “spillover” effects inside the classroom.
Research has shown that a student’s own physical appearance can effect their academic performance. However,in a recent study Hernández-Julián & Peters take this argument a step further. They look to see if students perform better when they are in a class of more attractive students. And in fact the author’s state “Estimates suggest that students receive a grade boost of about 1% over the mean when their courses are filled with attractive classmates compared to average-looking classmates (even after controlling for the student’s own appearance). This effect is strongest for female students and present only in the courses of younger and male instructors.”
There are two possible explanations for this academic improvement.
- Individuals in classes with attractive peers perform better academically because they become more confident and want to impress the instructor
- Young, male instructors see a class of attractive females and boost the grade of everyone—whether knowingly or unconsciously.
You guessed it. Based on the data and the importance of instructor characteristics the authors believe that the peer effect is more likely the result of discrimination by the instructor, rather than changes in student performance.
This article provides a glimpse into the way in which appearances (not just yours) matter to real outcomes—in this case final grades. In the future we recommend picking your courses based on the attractiveness of your fellow students, as you are likely to get a better grade and might even score a hot date.
Physical appearance and peer effects in academic performance
Rey Hernández-Julián & Christina Peters
Applied Economics Letters, 2017