Teachers Give Better Grades to More Attractive Students: Study

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If you were of a mind to forgive good-looking people for their freakishly good genetic makeup because you figure you got better brains than they did, don’t.  A new study suggests that people rated as more attractive are more likely to get higher grades and to go to college. In fact, the difference between the GPAs of the gorgeous and the unsightly was equivalent to the difference between kids who come from a two-parent or a single parent home. So feel free to hate on.

The kids who were better-looking reported higher levels of teacher attention, more friends and less depression, says one of the study’s authors Rachel Gordon, a sociology professor at the University of Illinois in Chicago. They also went on to become more successful. It’s not exactly clear whether the attention and praise increased a child’s confidence and hence he or she took extra credit classes and felt more emboldened to ask teachers for help, and that led to the higher grades, or whether teachers, like babies—or even (gulp) parents—simply favor attractive faces more.

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The findings are part of a forthcoming  from the Society for Research on Child Development, which combined statistical analyses of the National Longitudinal Survey of Adolescent Health and qualitative analyses of a single high school. As part of the longitudinal study, which, starting in the 1990s, followed 9000 adloescents across the U.S into their 30s, interviewers noted whether or not their interviewee was attractive. They also attached GPAs, which were provided by the schools. The new research is based on an analysis of all that data.

Other studies have supported these findings:  people shown photos of fetching humans tend to “hear” more warmth from them on them on the phone than people who think they’re talking to an unattractive person;  good looking women have an 8% wage bonus for above-average looks and pay a 4% penalty for below-average looks; men get a 4% bonus and 13% penalty. Attractive people also get more call-backs for jobs and are perceived as healthier and more trustworthy.

There is one thing that’s hard to tease out though: do confident and intelligent kids simply seem more attractive to interviewers than introverted or less able students? The researchers only noted the child’s looks at the end of the interview after they had been exposed to the child’s personality. Never forget how attractive people find Henry Kissinger—after they’ve met him. (Anecdotal evidence here.) But there’s other evidence that it’s all about the looks. Gordon says that in another study elementary teachers were given folders of children’s work and photos of the kids and had better expectations for the good-looking ones, and for elementary kids, expectations are half the battle. She says she’d like to do a similar study among high school teachers.

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Interestingly, the recent study found that the difference in grades between the hideous and the merely average looking was negligible.”The ill effect of having poorer mental health and fewer friends because of below average looks was completely neutralized by the other consequences of their below-average looks,” says a briefing report on the paper, which was commissioned by the Council on Contemporary Families. “They were less likely to be sexually active or involved in the heavy drinking party scene.”   (And, presumably, used that time for studying.)

In other words, those of you who consider yourself particularly unappealing, rejoice. As far as academic success goes, you’re no worse off than average-looking people.


Does the reverse apply for 'ugly' teachers? Because if that is the case, and if the last time I looked around the staffroom counts for anything, then the poor kids don't have much choice.


"Attractive" and "good-looking" are not the same. This article seems to confuse the two. The conclusions are thus misleading.

A person is usually deemed "good-looking" if his or her appearance alone is appealing, without any additional context.

Attractiveness, by contrast, is a combination of things: appearance, gestures, tone of voice, personality, and more. A person can be highly attractive without being especially good-looking--and vice versa.

One would expect attractive people to do better overall in school than unattractive people (even taking different opinions of "attractiveness" into account), since one's entire bearing, including one's intelligence, play into attractiveness.

By contrast, nothing in my experience suggests that people with good looks do better in school than people with ordinary looks. 

According to this article, the subjects in the study were rated on attractiveness during an interview--in which they could speak (obviously), use gestures, etc.

My hypothesis is that if the subjects had had their appearance (in photos) rated instead of their attractiveness, the results would have been significantly different.

In any case, the authors of this article should be more precise with the wording.


I go to a school that's pretty well-known for beautiful people, I would say 85% of the people are all relatively good-looking. It's also a Christian private school with an alarmingly high depression rate. This might have to do with relative attractiveness. And also DirkDurka says, it needs to isolate other factors. A lot of minorities and poorer students do not have that great of a time at my school.


I like how the study apparently didn't control for the base level of intelligence, or socioeconomic status. There could all kinds of feedback loops confounding the factors. Maybe because more attractive people get paid more, their kids have access to better education, on average. They've only looked at GPA, not IQ or standardized test results. This is a disturbingly shallow analysis.


when i was in school the popular kids all copied their answers from me, while I had to pay attention to where I sat down so i didn't sit down on a tack or gum placed there on purpose, and guard my Star Trek novel from being ripped because then I'd have to pay the library for it. I worried why I wasn't as thin as all the girls and only discovered on the last day that most of the others had closets full of body suits.

I did not attend any high school re-unions, but I'd be willing to bet i'm doing better than they are. Anecdotally from reading other people's comments, grades or not, the bullies and social butterflies seem to fail at life after school.


@postingonline42 Anecdotally bullies come from less-than-ideal environments, and thus are less successful in school and in life. Social butterflies, on the other hand, flourish in the real world and that is derived from the confidence inherent in being a social butterfly in the first place.