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Scholars’ physical appearance, research performance, and feelings of happiness


Our study aims to analyse whether former feelings of happiness and/or physical appearance are significantly correlated with the subsequent observable research performance of scholars. To the best of our knowledge, both has not been analysed previously. To do so, we photographed 49 persons attending the 72nd annual conference of the German Academic Association for Business Research (VHB), which took place in Bremen in 2010. We interviewed them about their feelings of happiness. Later we asked students to evaluate the photographed persons’ attractiveness, competence, trustworthiness, likeability and their feelings of happiness. To determine the academics’ research performance we compiled a list of their recent journal publications, considering different journal weights and dividing them by the number of authors. Regression analyses reveal significant relationships between feelings of happiness in 2010 and research performance in 2011/2012. Conversely, we cannot observe significant relationships between previous research performance and subsequently reported feelings of happiness. Even though at first glance one would not expect that physical appearance is relevant for research output we find significant relationships. While previous studies show that scholars’ evaluations of teaching are influenced by attractiveness, our results suggest that research performance is not influenced by attractiveness but especially by (perceived) trustworthiness. Our data also reveal a weakly significant correlation between scholars’ perceived feelings of happiness and their reported feelings of happiness.

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  1. Graham et al. (2010) also considered four of these dimensions: beauty, competence, trustworthiness, and likeability.

  2. The main function of this system is to collect student evaluations of teaching.

  3. None of the contacted students participated in more than one of the three lectures.

  4. Variants of the models presented in Table 3, which can be send on request, either consider reported feelings of happiness in 2010 or one of the physical appearance scores. The modified models show the same significant relationships between research performance and feelings of happiness respectively research performance and physical appearance. The significance levels are the same or even higher. In two models using ref.Journal as dependent variable the physical appearance scores for likeability and the overall physical appearance (which are insignificant in the original models) reaches the significance level 0.05 (likeability) respectively 0.10 (overall).

  5. Tobit regressions without control variables for the academic position, which can be send on request, reveal a significant (or at least weakly significant) correlation between feelings of happiness in 2010 and research performance in 2011/2012 in 13 out of our 18 models. In nine of these models the variable feelings of happiness (2010) is significant on the level of 0.05; in 4 other models on the 0.10 level. Removing the control variables for the academic position does not change, and in many cases even increases the significance levels of the physical appearance scores. Without these control variables we can observe some more significant correlations between research performance and physical appearance scores, such as attractiveness when Handelsblatt2012 is the dependent variable, competence when either Handelsblatt2012 or JQ2.1 is the dependent variable and the overall physical appearance score when ref.Journal is the dependent variable.


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The authors are very grateful to the participants of our study at the 72nd annual conference of the German Academic Association for Business Research (VHB) in Bremen 2010 and to Johanna Metker for taking photos of them. We also thank the participants of the annual meeting of the Section of Academic Management of the VHB in Duisburg 2013 as well as the participants of the 2013 EAIR Rotterdam Forum and two anonymous reviewers for valuable suggestions.

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Correspondence to Alexander Dilger.


Appendix 1

See Table 4.

Table 4 OLS regressions using physical appearance scores as dependent variables

Appendix 2

See Table 5.

Table 5 Female versus male scholars

Appendix 3

See Table 6.

Table 6 Correlation analyses for relations between gender, age, feelings of happiness, physical appearance and research performance

Appendix 4

See Table 7.

Table 7 Tobit regressions for feelings of happiness in 2010 considering research performance in 2008/2009

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Dilger, A., Lütkenhöner, L. & Müller, H. Scholars’ physical appearance, research performance, and feelings of happiness. Scientometrics 104, 555–573 (2015).

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  • Feelings of happiness
  • Individual characteristics
  • Physical appearance
  • Research performance
  • Scholars of business administration
  • Trustworthiness

Mathematics Subject Classification

  • 62P20

JEL Classification

  • I23
  • J01
  • M00
  • M50