Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Groom yourself to publish better research?

There is plenty of evidence that being beautiful helps you on the job market. First impressions count a lot, and physical appearance is likely the main factor in first impressions. But does beauty matter in situations where there are no such first impressions? Take the case of scholarly publishing: editors and referees do not see a picture of the author(s), thus it should not matter. If it still matters, it must be that beauty is correlated with something that makes your more likely to get published, say, confidence or more subtly that beautiful people are more healthy, and thus should have had less illness disruptions in schooling and have more human capital. Anyway, we need some evidence.

Alexander Dilger, Laura Lütkenhüner and Harry Müller want to offer some. They asked attendees at a conference of business researchers about their happiness, took their pictures and had others judge these mug shots. They then looked for the publication records of their subjects over the next two years. It turns out that happy people publish more, but of course the causality could run the other way, as you may be happy that your research agenda is progressing well, especially when you are asked about your happiness at a conference in your research field. Maybe more interesting is that a trustworthy appearance is correlated with a better publication record. Is it really the appearance that matters here, or simply that a person who is capable of keeping himself in order is also more likely to be well organized to publish well? Also the population under study (n=49, by the way) is faculty from business schools. It is notorious that in business schools appearances matter a lot, and after law schools it is where it matters the most. Not the kind of sample I would use to make general claims about the research productivity of scholars as it relates to appearance.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"editors and referees do not see a picture of the author(s)' ... this statement is most likely not true—editors and referees may know scholars in their filed from conferences and workshops or can easily check their websites, which typically have a photo. That means, the conclusion that beauty should be necessarily correlated with other unobserved factors is not true