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Pretty smart.

by Colman Thu May 25th, 2006 at 05:53:13 AM EST

From Chris Dillow on Stumbling and Mumbling:

Ugly and stupid

Good-looking people do better in exams than ugly ones. That's the message of this paper (pdf):

We examine the effects of students' physical appearance upon examination results. We found evidence that beauty has a significant impact on academic performance, a result which is consistent with and comparable to the impact found in labour market literature.

The effect is big. Students with looks that are one standard deviation above average perform 38% better than those with looks one standard deviation below average. [Stumbling and Mumbling]


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Explains all the pretty people at the ET meet-up...
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Thu May 25th, 2006 at 05:57:35 AM EST
You noticed that too?
by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Thu May 25th, 2006 at 07:48:53 AM EST
[ Parent ]
We examine the effects of students' physical appearance upon examination results. We f[o]und evidence that beauty has a significant impact on academic performance, a result which is consistent with and comparable to the impact found in labour market literature.
I am retroactively failing these people  in Statistics 101.

Correlation is not causation.

I'm going to have to read this paper to see whether they have controlled for the examiner knowing the examinee.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu May 25th, 2006 at 06:01:13 AM EST
Yep, it is bullshit. I shall write a deconstruction.

Disclaimer: I have no credentials as a statistician.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu May 25th, 2006 at 06:04:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
If the study proposes that pretty people are smarter it is bull.
If is says pretty people are judged smarter, it is indeed consistent with some literature on physical appearance and success.
by Torres on Thu May 25th, 2006 at 06:36:37 AM EST
[ Parent ]
No, it says they perform better in exams. That's a very different thing.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Thu May 25th, 2006 at 06:38:05 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It's more than that, Colman. From the abstract:
Do good looks make people more productive? An impact of looks on earnings has been found in the empirical literature: plain people earn less than average-looking people who earn less than good-looking. However, an important question remains unanswered: is the impact of beauty due to pure discrimination or productivity? We provide evidence against the hypothesis of Becker-type discrimination stemming from tastes and in favor of productivity-related discrimination
Oh, the muddled thinking of Verona's Economic "Scientists".

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu May 25th, 2006 at 06:50:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It seems entirely possible to me that pretty people in many jobs could be more productive. The interesting thing is to tease apart the reasons for that and how much of the difference in earnings is down to productivity and how much to discrimination.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Thu May 25th, 2006 at 07:05:16 AM EST
[ Parent ]
But to claim that better exam scores are evidence of increased productivity, without having corrected for oral vs. written exams, and for the examiner knowing the student...

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu May 25th, 2006 at 07:08:53 AM EST
[ Parent ]
From the S&M story:
Fascinatingly, the beauty premium is greater in written exams than oral ones. This suggests the pay-off to good looks (or a lack of ugliness) comes from higher ability rather than discrimination.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Thu May 25th, 2006 at 07:10:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Oops... <pops foot out of mouth>

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu May 25th, 2006 at 07:18:00 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Their thread of establishing causality could certainly do with work however.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Thu May 25th, 2006 at 07:06:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Not another one of these studies based on tweaking statistical data... They get so extremely stupid (and, thanks for pointing out, frequently just insignificant) that I've begun to just skim accross "findings" like these. I can't even take these reports serious, so I'm glad you dug in for the nitty-gritty. Not that any press reporter would be interesting in writing up "Good looking people not so smart after all: Science wrong" or the "Good looking people Controversy"...
by Nomad on Thu May 25th, 2006 at 06:28:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
beauty has a significant impact on academic performance
The tables at the end of the article include a parameter called "pseudo R^2" which is never larger than 0.12 and is often around 0.05. Significance means that the observed deviations are unlikely to have arisen by chance. However, the size of the effect is measured by the R^2 value (fraction of variance explained). So at best they have precisely measured very small effects.

Reading their description of the Italian exam system is not only instructive about Italian universities, but also shows that the biases inherent in the data are severe. Basically, if a student fails or chooses to resit an exam for a higher grade, there is no record whatsoever of their failed (or unsatisfactory) attempts.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu May 25th, 2006 at 07:29:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It is proposing a false correlation;-
that being attractive makes you smart, with a suggestion that attractiveness and social confidence leads to intellectual flexibility.

Rather I'd suggest it is the other way around. Intelligence amkes you attractive. After all, we're animals first and foremost so our snap judgements are instinctive, not intellectual (however much we use our intelligence to justify those judgements).

At the bottom line, that animal judgement is about who we'd breed with, who would make a more succesful breeding partner. Intelligence is survival plus, thus intelligence is attractive.

It is only a decadent modernity that has developed a bias against understanding with words like geek and nerd to make intelligence unattractive. But that's the social intellect talking, not the animal.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Thu May 25th, 2006 at 08:58:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Is academic performance (which is what they measure) correlated with intelligence?
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Thu May 25th, 2006 at 09:00:37 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Do you mean intelligence or IQ-test performance?

Is academic test performance correlated with IQ test performance?

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu May 25th, 2006 at 09:02:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't know.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Thu May 25th, 2006 at 09:06:40 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You are wise.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu May 25th, 2006 at 09:08:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Is intelligence related to IQ ?

Intelligence is assumed to be an innate quality of an individual, yet you can practice or be coached to improve IQ results. So it must follow that the test cannot possibly measure intelligence.

The IQ snobs form a club called mensa, an acronym popularly believed to mean "Mental Elitism Never Solved Anything".

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Thu May 25th, 2006 at 09:08:02 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Honestly, I don't know what intelligence is. IQ isn't it.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Thu May 25th, 2006 at 09:19:58 AM EST
[ Parent ]
But IQ is measurable so we run statistical regressions on it.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu May 25th, 2006 at 09:21:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
...it correlates one status: being good-looking with higher grades.

It does not said anything about intelligence...if thic an be defined at all.

It is even simpler. Give the same exam to two subsets of teachers and tell them in advance if it belongs to an student with very good grades or an student with bad grades adn failing.

Amazingly enough , the good student identical test gets better grades always. The discrepances depend ont he pool of professors. For university professors is rather low,a ctually within two standards deviation.

For high-school and primary school the differences reach easily three sigmas.

This does not mean that the article is right.. but it is indeed possible. It explains what kind of status and rewards we give to different people at different stages in life.

I can tell you that a very good-looking man or woman in a physics class is seen as highly suspicious..but not in economics... they would probably get less or more grades in the experiment designed above...

But maybe their experiment is not properly done. You need blind and double blind experiments...and they do not seem to be worried about that.

A pleasure

I therefore claim to show, not how men think in myths, but how myths operate in men's minds without their being aware of the fact. Levi-Strauss, Claude

by kcurie on Thu May 25th, 2006 at 01:03:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Theirs wasn't an experiment, it was an analysis of existing exam data, with all the implied selection biases and lack of controls.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu May 25th, 2006 at 01:04:48 PM EST
[ Parent ]
i made this observation in my university, pretty much all students on VC list or Dean list are good looking.

An i a professional world, for what i ve seen, most of lawyers/top managers/executives are tall and "good looking" as well.

by fredouil (fredouil@gmailgmailgmail.com) on Thu May 25th, 2006 at 07:20:49 AM EST
What is also observed is a reverse effect: status makes you better looking in the eyes of others.

I've read a description of an experiment where a person was introduced to audiences of students under different academic titles.
When asked to estimate the height of the person, the audiences on average considered the same person taller if he had a PhD than if he had a Bachelor degree. The lower the status the shorter he seemed, and vice-versa.

by Torres on Thu May 25th, 2006 at 07:39:48 AM EST
I live close to one the UK's top public schools - not a cheap establishment, with fees of around £21,000/year.

It really is striking just how good looking many of the students are, especially compared to students from the local comprehensive. And given the educational values of this school it's a given that most of the students will be aiming for Oxbridge and high-flying careers in business, law and the media.

So I'm not totally skeptical about a correlation. Although working out the cause is much harder. I'd expect a strong element of class advantage in exam performance. And presumably, in a very simple Darwinian sense, more status and more money means you have a wider pick of potential partners, and are more likely to end up with someone considered visually desirable. So there's potential for a positive feedback effect to trend towards gene pool stratification.

(Which is not to suggest that good looks cause or always imply intelligence, or that lack of good looks suggests stupidity, of course.)

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Thu May 25th, 2006 at 08:07:22 AM EST
Prettier people are more likely to wed out of class, too. There are all kinds of effects that reward good-looking people and give their offspring a head start.

The very top of the hyerarchy let it get to their head, they start inbreeding and turn ugly and stupid but retain the power and status.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu May 25th, 2006 at 08:12:38 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Hyerarchy...do I see the first signs of inbreeding? ;)

(I can only tease you like that because you're my boyfriend. But given your usually impeccable spelling, I'm a bit surprised!)

"If you cannot say what you have to say in twenty minutes, you should go away and write a book about it." Lord Brabazon

by Barbara on Thu May 25th, 2006 at 09:12:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You of all people have unique insight into how ugly and stupid I am. But I am not inbred.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu May 25th, 2006 at 09:32:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I can't get at the pdf file for the moment (times out), but my two eurocents are that there are broadly three possible cases:

  1. good looks in fact go, genetically, with higher intelligence;
  2. good-looking people are the object of positive discrimination;
  3. good-looking people gain self-confidence and high self-esteem from their mirror-image in other people's eyes.

These are not mutually exclusive.

(1) is way short of any scientific demonstration, and anecdotal evidence would suggest there are good-looking stupid people as well as less good-looking intelligent people.

(2) is something that surely happens. Good-looking (and tall) people get offered better jobs and better pay, for example. But here we're talking about written exam results (though if the writers of this piece didn't control for examiners knowing candidates, as Migeru says, that would seem to shoot their work in the foot.)

(3) Our status as individuals depends a lot on our perception of ourselves as others see us. Good-looking and tall people (whatever their social background) receive positive feedback from others, build high self-esteem, and perform better as a result in ranking trials. (Another interesting control would be to test for results when candidates sit an exam separately rather than as a group).

I won't have succeeded in hiding my preference for (3) (with, certainly, an admixture of (2)). What would really be interesting would be to study  this cross-culturally, where canons of beauty differed. Would an individual accounted good-looking through our culturally-determined eyes, but belonging to a culture where s/he is accounted ugly, do well in exams (in either culture)? (Practically, unfortunately, not an easy study to set up...)

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Thu May 25th, 2006 at 09:25:35 AM EST
The key here is that this is not a controlled study, but an analysis of existing data. There is substantial selection bias. If the Italian practice is like in Spain, no attempt is made at blind marking of exam papers. Each professor grades his own students, and the exam papers are signed by name.

I would like to see a similar test done of truly blind written exams, like for instance the Spanish university admission exams [selectividad].

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu May 25th, 2006 at 09:30:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
See my comment above.

This should be double tested with controlled blind and double blind experiments.

Point 1 is not true. Point 2 and three could be possible, but all the literature about other similar issues points that two is highly correct with 3 difficult to detect.

On the other hand 2 is not at all universal. Actually ,as I said, the best way to get a good grade is that the teacher knows you got good grades in the past. A cumulative effect happens and nobody notices..but blind and double blind experiments have shown this to be the case clearly.

This is why in Spain professors do not have any idea about the grades of the student in high school when the exams to acces the University are performed. They also must be university professors. It is have been shown to have to most fair grades you can ever get.

A pleasure

I therefore claim to show, not how men think in myths, but how myths operate in men's minds without their being aware of the fact. Levi-Strauss, Claude

by kcurie on Thu May 25th, 2006 at 01:09:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]


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