Eye Candy: Do Students Prefer Physically Attractive Professors? Essay

Abstract When given a choice, professors should be chosen on previous experience and credentials. More often than not perceived facial attractiveness can potentially influence a student’s decision in choosing a professor. If a student chooses their professors based off of facial attractiveness instead of teaching methods, it can potentially be risking the academic outcome of the student. Biological instincts which drive certain human functions can potentially overpower logical decisions.

Students attending Fullerton College were surveyed in order to better understand the mentality of an individual choosing a professor based off of facial attractiveness. A survey, containing four different conditions, was distributed on campus to collect data regarding professor preferences. Some significant results were found after analyzing the collected data. Eye Candy: Do Students Prefer Physically Attractive Professors? Everyday attractiveness is measured on an unconscious level depending on an individual’s surroundings.

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By developing an experiment to test this theory using student-teacher preferences based on looks, it is possible to better understand how perceived attractiveness is used in everyday lives. When given a choice between professors, a student should give priority to a professor’s teaching methods and credentials over attractiveness. However, the constant exposure to the repetitive school environment has created a dull, everyday cycle.

The only aspect in a student’s academic environment which continuously changes is the professors. Due to this continuous cycle, perhaps, students have unconsciously decided to focus more readily in a classroom when an attractive professor is teaching the class rather than an unattractive professor. Therefore, in theory, if a student is presented with a stimulus, such as a picture, it is more likely that the attractive professor will be chosen. Many studies discuss the influence of perceived facial attractiveness.

Such studies, specifically in evolutionary psychology, have suggested that facial characteristics such as symmetry, facial average and non average sexually dimorphic features have an influence on the evaluation of an individual’s attractiveness (Fink & Penton-Voak, 2002). Research such as this focuses on indicators of good, resistant, and healthy genes implying that there is a biological factor which is directly linked to what an individual finds attractive (Fink & Penton-Voak, 2002). Generally, these perceptions are rooted in the desire to have a healthy mate which whom can pass on good genes to the preceding generations. Johnston & Oliver-Rodriguez, 2001) If an individual is attractive it is seen through human eyes as a “health certificate” (Thornhill & Gangestad, 1999). Using previous studies, which positively correlate attractive features and symmetry, an individual’s attraction is biologically based on facial appeal (Saidel & Deblieck, 2007). Even though most students do not look at a professor as a potential partner, it may be instinctual to seek out a professor whom captures the attention of a student. In an environment which has become uninteresting, it is logical to imply that the mind seeks out an alluring bystander in the vicinity.

Attraction, being a common biological function, is one logical way to filter unwanted distractions. Attempting to use attractiveness as a filter is directly linked to evolutionary studies because it is directly related to the search for a potential mate. Even though, for the most part, a sexual relationship is not desired with a professor, using attraction as a way to enhance the surroundings is biologically rooted. Driven by this unconscious process, students are given an incentive to focus more deliberately in class. Methods Overview This experiment consisted of four conditions which were given out in a survey form.

The four conditions were presented to participants as manipulated photographs. These photographs were placed on four different surveys so that they would not all be presented to all the participants in order to achieve a between-subjects design. Using the data collected from the questionnaire, the significance of the manipulations was calculated. A second set of pictures was presented to all the participants to see if an individual would select a model who shared the same attractiveness level as themselves. Each participant was given an Informed Consent Form before filling out the survey.

Participants The participants in this study included 34 males and 70 females all enrolled in lower level undergraduate classes at Fullerton College; a community college in southern California. In order to collect data, professors were contacted and those who were willing to allow part of their class to be momentarily interrupted were surveyed. The classes which were surveyed included one Critical Thinking English class and three Behavioral Statistics classes. Those students who wished to participate in the study were given consent forms and the questionnaire.

There was no compensation on the part of the researchers. However, one of the professors gave extra credit to whoever chose to participate in the study. Procedure This study used four pictures as the manipulation presented to the participants. Several pictures were collected of both males and females and ultimately two were chosen to be manipulated. The models were specified to have no make-up, un-styled hair (male), hair down (female) and expressionless. All pictures were black and white head shots with plain backgrounds.

The two pictures that were chosen as the manipulation, one male and one female, were distorted with the Gimp program; a face manipulation program downloaded offline. Using this program, the noses were flattened, eye sizes were changed, the illusion of a retreating hair line was produced, and the appearance of damaged skin was applied. All changes were subtle enough to remain natural looking but major enough to create a less attractive version of the original model. The two new distinct pictures were coupled with the two original pictures to create the four photographs presented to the participants.

Later in the surveys there is a group of pictures that displayed 2 females and 2 males. Two of the pictures, 1 male and 1 female, are the 2 original pictures that were used in the conditions. The other two pictures were of two new models with the same specifications as the other two models (hair down, no make-up, expressionless, etc. ). Each participant was asked to choose one of the pictures and answer the questions that followed about the picture which was chosen. These pictures were part of the survey to give participants the opportunity to have a choice of which model would be a preferred professor.

Using the answers provided on the second half of the survey, answers from the previous set of questions were compared in order to discern any differences there may have been between the two conditions. Also, these pictures were used to compare if a student would pick a model that was close to their own level of attractiveness. The survey was formatted to where, on the first page, there was a large picture of one of the conditions. Following the photograph was a series of questions which simulated the same format found on RateMyProfessor. com.

Participants answered these questions using a 1 (lowest rating) to 7 (highest rating) scale. After answering these questions, the set of pictures was displayed asking the participant to choose the picture of one of the models they would want to have as a professor. The questions following their selection were the exact same questions asked about the previous condition. At the end of the survey each participant was asked their gender and how they would rate their own attractiveness on the 1 (not attractive) to 7 (very attractive) scale. Results

The original hypothesis of this study stated that when students are given a choice between teachers, the more attractive professor would be selected more often. However, after conducting the study and testing the results, the conclusion was that the results do not support the original hypothesis. The results indicated no significant difference was found between the four main conditions. Surprisingly, a correlation was found in a question which was not being studied. A survey question which asked about the perceived difficulty of the class showed there was a significant difference within the four conditions.

Between Model 1 Original (? = 2. 62, S=. 752), Model 1 Manipulated (? =2. 56, S= . 641), Model 2 Original (? = 2. 42, S=. 584), and Model 2 Manipulated (? =2. 58, S=. 6430), the one-way ANOVA statistical test found a significant difference between the perceived difficulty of Model 2 pictures compared to the perceived difficulty of Model 1 Original picture; F(3,102)= 2. 785, < . 045. After conducting the one-way ANOVA statistical test, an Independent-Samples t-Test was also conducted and also failed to produce any significant results. *Significant difference when compared to Model 1 Original

Discussion The analyzed data came to show that there is no support for the original hypothesis which states that student-professor choices were more likely to produce an attractive professor rather than an unattractive professor. This hypothesis was based on the fact that attraction is a biologically rooted instinct which naturally filters out what is perceived as attractive and disregards what is unattractive. This instinct can motivate a student to choose a professor based on physical attraction. According to the study, no significant effect was measured.

A One-Way ANOVA was used to analyze the data which did not produce any significance differences between the four conditions. Failing to reject the null hypothesis was the statistical conclusion which came about from the results. Although the results gathered did not support the hypothesis, it has to be taken into account that the study itself had a vast amount of weaknesses. The outcome of the study can be attributed to the way in which the survey was distributed. Due to the fact that a blind experimenter was not used, there is the possibility that there was an experimenter bias.

In addition, each class that was surveyed was administered the test by three different researchers, none of which used the same introduction to the study. Since there was not a pre-drafted introduction to the study, each introduction was different. If ever replicated, this study should use a blind experimenter who gives the same introduction to each class surveyed. In addition, out of the four classes surveyed, three were Behavioral Statistics classes. These classes have background knowledge on how to analyze and understand studies such as this.

Many of the students in these classes have taken other psychology classes which does not properly represent the general populous. Even though these students would be beneficial when running pilot studies, average students are necessary in order to adequately represent the general population. Sample size and location are important when attempting to generalize results. In this study, students of one specific university and location were surveyed. Students attending Fullerton College in Southern California cannot be representative of a whole nation, state or even region.

A larger sample size encompassing many universities and different degree levels would give the study more substance. Furthermore, when the surveys were given, all were administered on different days and at different times. Inconsistencies such as this can also hinder the validity of the results. Results could have also been altered because of the lack of equality across the board; each condition did not have the same number of surveys. Due to incompletion, some surveys had to be thrown out when analyzing the data. In addition, the picture quality of the surveys did not adequately represent the manipulations.

Several comments were made that there was no visible differences in the copies even though there was a clear difference in the original copies. The limited resources offered to research students at Fullerton College restricted the availability of models. Compete pilot studies were not conducted, therefore there was not a neutral set of pictures. This factor had the single largest effect on the experiment. In order to improve this aspect of the study, several photographs need to be rated beforehand in order to have a more balanced set of pictures.

Through the process of designing and conducting this study, a better understanding of the complexity and involvement of the process has created a learning experience. Many flaws in this study could have possibly contributed to the results being unsupportive of the hypothesis. References Fink, B. and Penton-Voak, I. (2002) Evolutionary Psychology of Facial Attractiveness. American Psychological Society, 154-158. Retrieved from http://web. ebscohost. com/ehost/pdf? vid=7&hid=108&sid=e76804e0-c3dd-4234-9a8f-404448249c45%40sessionmgr114. Johnston, V. S. and Oliver-Rodriguez, J. C. 2001) Facial Beauty and the Late Positive Component of Event-related Potentials. The Journal of Sex Research, 24(2), 188-198. Retrieved from:http://web. ebscohost. com/ehost/pdf? vid=9&hid=108&sid=e76804e0-c3dd-4234-9a8f-404448249c45%40sessionmgr114. Thornhill, R. and Gangestad, S. E (1999) Facial attractiveness. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 3(12), 452-460. doi:10. 1016/S1364-6613(99)01403-5 Zaidel, D. W. and Cohen, J. A. (2005) The Face, Beauty, and Symmetry: Perceiving Asymmetry In Beautiful Faces. Intem. J. Neuroscience, (115),1165-1173. Retrieved from http://web. ebscohost. com/ehost/pdf? vid=21&hid=108&sid=e76804e0-c3dd-4


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