Can Physical Atttractiveness Influence the Evaluation of an Essay?
One important question concerns the possible effects of physical
attractiveness on judgments about the work of others.
Landy and Sigall (1974) had male college students evaluate an essay that
was supposedly written by a female college student. They varied the quality
of the essay. Participants read either an essay that was was poor or good in
quality. They also manipulated the physical attractivessness of the essay
writer by mounting a photo on a card. The card was attached to the essay
with a paper clip. The participants in this study viewed either a card with no
photo, a card with a picture of an attractive female, or a card with a photo of
an unattractive female. The card had the same description of the essay
writer in each condition. For the poor quality essay, the mean rating of
general quality was higher in the attractive condition than in the unattractive
condition. For the good quality essay, there was no statistically significant
difference between the attractive condition and unattractive condition with
respect to perceived general quality of the essay. (1) One limitation of this
study is that only male participants were used. Thus, we do not know
whether the findings would be different with female participants.
Bull and Stevens (1979) also investigated the influence of the
attractiveness of a writer on the evaluation of an essay. They did not find
any significant main (overall) effect of the attractiveness of the writer on
evaluations of the essay (e.g., general quality) for either a male writer or a
female writer. (2) However, they did not investigate the influence of the
quality of the essay, and it is possible that the lack of an effect of
attractiveness might reflect that the quality of the essay was sufficiently high.
The findings of the two studies may suggest that the attractiveness of the
writer may influence the evaluation of essays in only some situations.
1. See their article for information on other findings.
2. See their article for information on other findings.
Bull, R., & Stevens, J. (1979). The effects of attractiveness of writer and
penmanship on essay grades. Journal of Occupational Psychology,
Landy, D., & Sigall, H. (1974). Beauty is talent: Task evaluation as a
function of the performer's physical attractiveness. Journal of
Personality and Social Psychology, 29, 299-304.