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Students learn more from attractive teachers – even in online courses

Students not only gave attractive instructors higher ratings, but also actually performed better on tests on the given material than students who had teachers rated unattractive.
Students not only gave attractive instructors higher ratings, but also actually performed better on tests on the given material than students who had teachers rated unattractive.

Multiple studies have already shown that attractive people are judged more positively than those considered homely, a phenomenon known as the attractiveness stereotype.

But a new study shows that not only are attractive teachers rated more favorably by their students, but students might actually learn more from them.

University of Nevada researchers took 131 university students, 86 women and 45 men with an average age of 20, and had them listen to a 20-minute audio lecture for an introductory physics course. Half heard a male voice and half heard a female voice.

While students listened to the online lecture, each had a photo of their “instructor” displayed on the screen. For 62 students, the picture was of an unattractive person, while the remaining 69 had a highly attractive person. Whether or not a teacher was attractive was determined by a separate student panel.

Students were not allowed to take notes during the lecture, and afterward had to take a test with 25 multiple-choice questions about the material. They were also given a 16-item questionnaire rating the instructors, including if they thought the teacher was attractive.

Attractive instructors were overall rated higher than unattractive ones, and the male attractive instructors were rated higher than the female ones. Students also said attractive teachers made them want to attend class more and motivated them more.

Further, students with attractive instructors scored better on the test than those with unattractive instructors. This result was unaffected by the gender of the teachers or the participants, suggesting it isn’t necessarily caused by sexual attraction.

“This indicates that physical attractiveness may actually play a previously overlooked role in classroom learning,” the study concludes. “Furthermore, the lack of significant gender effects in this study indicates that the effects of physical attractiveness are not driven by human attraction and mating behavior but is more global in origin.”

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