Beauty and Professors

The reliability of teaching evaluation has been investigated for a number of years. Researchers have been trying to find out the factors related to the teaching evaluation results. One of those factors includes “attractiveness“.

The article in Journal of General Psychology published in January this year (2006 – Vol. 133, No.1, p. 19-35) written by four professors at Medaille College (led by professor Riniolo) uses to justify the relationship between hotness and teaching evaluation results. By collecting data from four Universities, including Grand Valley State University, University of Delaware, San Diego State University, James Madison University (the selection was based on the number of rates), they found positive relationship that means the hotter professor, the higher evaluation scores. However, they admit that “[a]lthough this study has all the limitations of naturalistic research, it adds a study with ecological validity to the limited literature.

The article in Guardian also refers to another study done by Hamermesh and Parker (from UT-Austin) published in Economics of Education Review. (Note: Interestingly, they asked only six (6) students.)

Hamermesh and Parker saw a pattern in the two sets of ratings. The more beautiful the professor, the higher the teaching-quality ratings. Especially the men. Hot men drew higher teaching-quality ratings than did hot women; ugly men drew lower teaching-quality ratings than did ugly women. The report offers no explanation for this male/female disparity.

Here is the summary of some parts in Riniolo et al.’s literature review that I found interesting. (The bold words are those that seems to be keywords.)

  • By using a professional actor as an instructor, a teacher received higher evaluations when using the expressive style. (Naftulin, Ware, & Donnelly, 1973; Ware & Williams, 1975)
  • By delivering the same course content and comparing the evaluation over two-semesters period, an enthusiastic teaching style is preferred by students. (Williams and Ceci, 1997)
  • Professors’ extraversion was the strongest predictor of midterm student evaluations of teaching effectiveness. (Radmacher and Martin, 2001)
  • Students preferred both male and female professors who possess androgynous characteristics (rather than feminine and masculine). (Freeman, 1994)

Well then what else people benefits from being hot or attractive? (Note: based on the lit. review. of the same paper)

  • Receiving help from strangers (Benson, Karabenick, & Lerner, 1976)
  • Receiving a more lenient punishment if found guilty of a crime (Mazzella & Feingold ,1994; Stewart,1980)
  • Viewed as more socially competent (Eagly, Ashmore, Makhijani, & Longo, 1991)
  • Viewed as having greater academic potential by teachers (Ritts,Patterson,& Tubbs,1992)
  • Being more persuasive communicators (Chaiken,1979)
  • Preferred by voters in political elections (Budesheim & DePaola, 1994; Sigelman,Thomas, Sigelman, & Ribich, 1986)
  • Receiving higher incomes (Frieze, Olson, & Russell, 1991; Hamermesh & Biddle, 1994)
  • Obtaining better outcomes for a variety of job-related issues (e.g. hiring and promotion) (Hosoda et al., 2003)

We all realize that attractiveness is subjective, but it’d be good to know what others think, right? The lit. review also summarizes the factors influencing the perception toward attractiveness including

  • individual preferences,
  • target’s personality characteristics,
  • similarity of attitudes between perceiver and target,
  • the perceived familiarity of the target,
  • the perceiver’s sense of self,
  • the dating status,
  • commitment to a partner in close relationships of the perceiver,
  • first impressions and following repeated exposures, and
  • gender of the perceiver and clothing of the target (a lot of fun examples in this section).

Anyway, no one can choose to be attractive or unattractive before they were born. I think what people are trying to do is to found out whether teaching evaluation could indicate the success of education and how to improve the reliability of teaching evaluation as well as the factors influencing students’ learning. Well, at least, hopefully attractiveness would not include as one of the criteria in tenure evaluation.

[through improbable research and Guardian]

3 responses to “Beauty and Professors

  1. Pingback: Simple Rules To Prevent Sexual Harassment for Men « iTeau’s Dirt·

  2. Pingback: Toward Standard Attractiveness « iTeau’s Dirt·


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