Skip to main content

Being Attractive In Scientific Fields Isn't Always Pretty

You're listening to an expert give a data-driven PowerPoint presentation. This person is both smart, and attractive. Is that going to be a problem? Maybe so, according to a new study.


Researchers at the University of Essex in England asked 3,700 study participants to rate the photos of 600 geneticists and physicists from 400 U.S. and British universities for perceived attractiveness, intelligence, morality, competence and sociability. Study participants were asked how much they would like to find out more about each scientist's work, and to what extent each scientist's research seemed accurate, and important.


The P-value of Prettiness
The good news? Attractiveness can bring attention to a scientist's hard work like bees to a flower! However, attractiveness cannot make others value the work, or the conclusions. There can be an initial interest to consider the work, but the extent to which the work has impact could be debatable. And scientists are all about impact. Goodbye, h-index, thanks for stopping by.

via GIPHY

Could such a study find applicability in other professional fields where general attractiveness could potentially present barriers? It's sort of like the latest episode of HBO's Silicon Valley, "Blood Boy," where an attractive male with a "CS degree" laments how the other brogrammers don't take his work seriously because of his physical appearance. He's too attractive to fit into the geek work culture!

Of course, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, it's only skin deep and we are all beautiful in our own way. That said, Hollywood is subtly changing our perception of attractiveness in scientific work fields. When you think about it (which I did after reading the terrific Livescience.com article linked to above) TV and movie scientists of past generations were decidedly...strange. Think Star Trek's Spock, Dr. Strangelove and Doc Brown from Back to the Future, to name a few.

But now? Movie scientists (and related wonks) are heating up the screen with their super-cool theories about everything! From The Martian to The Imitation Game to Interstellar to Hidden Figures to Doctor Strange to Arrival, movie scientists are morphing into sexy beings who are trim, tan and usually wear contacts. Movie audiences don't want to do the math with Matt Damon, they want to do Matt Damon while he does the math!


What can we learn from this study?

Besides watching more science-based Hollywood movies based on best-selling novels and comic strips, it's good for scientists (and by extension, everyone else) to keep perceptions in mind as they send their finished work into the ether. They are not only selling their conclusions, they are selling the idea that smart and attractive do not have to be mutually-exclusive properties anymore. A Ph.D. professional can be attractive and have great scientific impact. Matt Damon, Benedict Cumberbatch, the awesome Octavia Spencer and Jessica Chastain will be available to back up this working hypothesis in theaters.


Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Seven tips for dealing with a jealous coworker

Look at you, doing so well at work! We're so happy for you. Well, most of us are happy for you and refuse to spend the entire work day talking behind your back. Let's talk about how to handle our jealous co-workers!Like every other professional, you've no doubt experienced your share of failures and successes. Lately, however, things seem to be going your way at work. And how! Perhaps you've managed to ace an important project this quarter, been instrumental in landing a huge client, earned some well-deserved rewards for this and that, or -- egads! -- been given a slight promotion or additional work responsibilities (e.g., the work responsibilities you actually want).You're quietly chuffed, but somehow your co-workers seem none too pleased with this rapid turn of events. Oh no, what should you do now?It's a workplace tale older than the disjointed last season of Mad Men. The playing field in the department was even, cozy and overall very friendly -- until so-an…

Employees Blame Technology For Slowing Them Down At Work

Do you feel like you're always working, but never getting very much done? If so, you're not alone. Too much technology, and too much red tape, keep slowing us down at work. But technology, and more of it, is supposed to make our lives easier! Too much technology, however, does not compute for employees. A new SAP/Knowledge@Wharton survey of almost 700 corporate employees finds a full 60% of respondents blame technology "for inhibiting their ability to meet strategic goals." Gee, anyone who has ever used the self-checkout line at the grocery store can tell you that. However, 40% surveyed said that looking for ways to simplify the technology has been "a low priority" for their company. Too much paperwork is an on-going problem for the workplace, too. A new ServiceNow survey of nearly 1,000 managers finds that 90% are doing too much administrative work, no matter the size of the company. This paperwork includes filling out forms, writing status updates, …

Is Your Co-worker Always Late For Work?

You've started the workday, but where is your co-worker? Oh, she's running late again, just like yesterday. And the day before. And the day before that. Let's get an early start on solving her tardiness problem, shall we? Working with someone who is consistently late is one of the most annoying aspects of office life, and also one of the most common, unfortunately. It's a universal theme of the workplace that everyone will get to work on time (give or take a few minutes...) except for the employee who is egregiously late nearly every day. And the excuses can get pretty amazing. Employees became more punctual as the Great Recession lingered, at least according to surveys. Everyone, that is, except for your able-bodied but habitually-tardy co-worker. It's bad enough dealing with tardiness when you're a manager, but it can be even more frustrating when you're a rank-and-file peer without any magical "shape up or ship out" managerial powers. So you…