The article below from Newsweak is unusually good for them — even more so because it is written by the often-batty Sharon Begley. Our Sharon does drift off into nuttiness towards the end of the article but I have left that bit out. Taranto has a comment on that bit, though. What puzzles Sharon and many others is WHY attractive and good-natured people get better grades at school. I don’t pretend to have all the answers to that but I want to suggest two things that are probably important:

1). As a former teacher, I think I can assert with confidence that there is an undeniable arbitrary element in marking and, as in life in general, one tends to give the benefit of the doubt to people whom one likes for one reason or another. It is for that reason that all schools once graded students solely on the basis of anonymous formal exams marked by markers who did not know the person they were marking. That procedure now seems to be deemed “unfair”, however — for some reason that is not apparent to me.

2). As I occasionally mention, there does seem to be a syndrome of general biological fitness, such that some people seem to hold just about all the good cards. As Terman & Oden discovered decades ago, high-IQ people also tend to be healthier, taller, more long lived, more attractive and less likely to divorce (etc.). So the more attractive people and the people who are more pleasant to others in general are also likely to be the more intelligent ones — and that alone could explain much of their advantage at school. I know several very bright people, including my own son, who use their intelligence to help them get on well with people. My son has just gained a distinguished degree in Mathematics and you don’t get that through personality alone but using your intelligence to think about how you relate to other people and then applying that to make all interactions with others more pleasant is probably one of the more important uses of intelligence. So more intelligent persons will often be more pleasant people socially as well — and the advantages of that at school and everywhere else are clearly undeniable.

If you survived high school, or hope to, you probably made your peace with the fact that life is unfair: looks can compensate for a lack of brains and conscientiousness. Or to put it more bluntly, teachers give good-looking kids higher grades than homely ones, all other factors being equal, as numerous studies have found. The phenomenon is so well documented in science it even has a name: the attractiveness effect.

Now sociologist Michael T. French of the University of Miami and his colleagues have discovered yet another reason for plain kids with less-than-winning personalities to feel that the deck is stacked against them. In a paper on “Effects of Physical Attractiveness, Personality and Grooming on Academic Performance in High School”, to be published in the August issue of Labour Economics, they find that the three factors in their title indeed affect students’ GPA in high school. (Attractiveness, personality and grooming might affect grades in K-8, as well as college, too, but the researchers looked only at high school.)

Physical attractiveness, they conclude, “has a positive and statistically significant impact on GPA for female students,” as other studies have found (the effect also exists for males, but not in a statistically significant way—that is, it may be due to chance). But in a departure from past studies, they find that personality and grooming can boost GPA even more than beauty.

“Being very well groomed is associated with a statistically significant GPA premium,” they write. “While grooming has the largest effect on GPA for male students, having a very attractive personality is most important for female students.” More specifically:

Physical attractiveness alone boosts GPA for both genders. Nevertheless, physical attractiveness was a weaker predictor of grades than grooming (for boys) and personality (for girls). That suggests that teacher bias plays a significant role in what grades students get. Teachers reward some physical and personality types and penalize others.

The findings raise a host of intriguing questions. For instance, how do “beauty premiums” and “plainness penalties” work?(That’s economist-speak for the fact that attractive people get paid more than homely ones—not just actors or waiters: good-looking accountants and even engineers generally earn more than plain ones).

In particular, might the extra earnings reflect not a direct effect of beauty (bosses and customers unconsciously think more highly of attractive people, or are inclined to overlook their mistakes, and thus pay them more than their skills and experience justify) but an indirect one: that years of extra attention and rewards from teachers made attractive people more confident, smarter (because they received lots of positive feedback, they studied more) and thus genuinely more capable? For now, all we can say is that attractiveness and a winning personality boost grades when you’re young, and may have an enduring effect once you enter the work force.

But there’s something else I’m wondering. In this age of DNA, scientists are hunting for genes associated with intelligence. None have yet been found and verified, and two high-profile candidates recently flamed out (though press coverage of the failure to find a link between the genes, called microcephalin and ASPM, and IQ didn’t get nearly the attention as the initial claim). But you can be sure such genes will eventually be discovered, and a study will report that people who carry them have a higher IQ than people who do not.

SOURCE (See the original for links)

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