Do attractive people get better grades? Signs point to yes - study

Prior to shifting to remote coursework, attractive students tended to outperform their classmates due to favoritism.

 Teacher approaching student (photo credit: MAX FISCHER)
Teacher approaching student
(photo credit: MAX FISCHER)

If life is a game, some people appear to have the rules written for them. A new study shows that one's level of attractiveness correlates with the quality of grades students earn in their coursework. While academic aptitude is a priority for many, it is not as much of a requirement as we would think.

A recent study conducted by an economics researcher at Lund University in Sweden identified key factors in the correlation of receiving high marks and the physical beauty features associated with students in non-quantitative subjects. The study also recognized the variety in grade performance of these same eye-catching students following a switch from in-person study to remote coursework.

Through a Swedish-created facial recognition software that identified different facial "attractiveness" characteristics of students and compared them to marks received. Though the factors determining what identifies a subject as "attractive" is unclear, students with qualities deemed as such received better grades during the in-person study in non-quantitative subjects. 

These subjects, which are less number-driven and rely more on face-to-face interactions between students and classmates, often found students with attractive features to be the highest performers.

In-class vs. remote learning

 Student studying (credit: MAX FISCHER) Student studying (credit: MAX FISCHER)

Prior to shifting to remote coursework, attractive students tended to outperform their classmates due to favoritism, and the reportedly productive attribute that comes with the physical feature. The study also shows that students who are seen as more attractive often have a confidence boost that comes hand-in-hand with the subject matter. 

As students shifted to remote learning, female students saw a decline in grades regardless of looks. Whether subconsciously or not, professors typically had a bias toward students they found more attractive. 

"As education moved online following the onset of the pandemic, the grades of attractive female students deteriorated. This finding implies that the female beauty premium observed when education is in-person is likely to be chiefly a consequence of discrimination," the study said.

What about male students?

Male students did not run into the same breeziness that their female classmates did. Female professors were less likely to give high marks to good-looking students than male professors.

In short, when female students had less of an opportunity to interact in person with their instructors in non-quantitative subjects, they noticed a sharp decline in positive marks. The ability to "get to know" students (or a lack of that opportunity) also had a direct impact on grade distribution

"On the contrary, for male students, there was still a significant beauty premium even after the introduction of online teaching. The latter finding suggests that for males in particular, beauty can be a productivity-enhancing attribute," researchers stated.