Students learn better when their teachers are more attractive

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We tend to think attractive people enjoy more advantages than common people. For example, pretty people are assumed to be smarter, more intelligent, more competent, and have better social skills. Accordingly, they may get advantages in job hiring processes and even criminal trials.

Now researchers find that physical attractiveness not only brings benefits to the person who is attractive, but also is good to other people who perceive the beauty. For example, students can learn knowledge better if their teachers are more attractive. The finding is published in The Journal of General Psychology.

The study involved 131 college students. They viewed 8 photos of Caucasian male and female faces. These faces had above-average or below-average physical attractiveness.

In the study, students listened to a 20-min audio lecture about introductory physics. During the lecture, a photo appeared on the computer screen. Students were told that this was the actual instructor. They were not allowed to take notes.

After the lecture, students completed a 25-item forced choice test covering the material from the lecture. Items had different difficulties. Students also finished a questionnaire about their opinion of the instructor’s performance and how easy it was to attend to the instructor.

The result showed that students with a high attractive instructor had better performance on the test than those with a low attractive instructor. No differences were found between male and female instructors.

In addition, students thought attractive instructors were better teachers. They paid more attention to attractive instructors and they were more motivated by attractive instructors. Interestingly, male instructors could motivate students better than female instructors.

Researchers suggest that attractiveness can have a direct impact on students’ learning behavior. Students may look longer at attractive faces, and process the instructors’ information (e.g., lecture) more accurately.

In the classroom environment, more attention to the instructor means more learning. More attention is also often associated with better recall of the learnt material and better overall academic performance.


Citation: Westfall R, Millar M, Walsh M. (2016). Effects of Instructor Attractiveness on Learning, The Journal of General Psychology, 143: 161-171. doi: 10.1080/00221309.2016.1200529.
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