February 21, 2017

Drop That William F. Buckley Seminar and Take a Class From A Hot Professor


Got it bad, got it bad, got it bad / I’m hot for teacher

The left and right wings of our political system are engaged in all-out war with one another. As we know, it’s a war fought on many fronts, and you can’t swing a dead cat around this blog without hitting a post about one of the ideological, cultural, or academic battles raging in this country.

But, for a beautiful moment, I’d like to guide us back to much shallower waters and ask the critical question: Who’s hotter, lefty academics or righties? Is the disheveled, elbow-padded, left-wing philosophy prof better-looking on average than your coifed, bow-tied, right-wing economics prof?

As Hilary Lamb reports for Times Higher Education, a psychologist at the University of Helsinki has published a journal article—titled “Just Because you Look Good Doesn’t Mean You’re Right”—on this very subject. Looking to shed some light on one of the great debates of our time, Jan-Erik Lönnqvist and fellow researchers conducted a crucial social experiment:

Sampling academics who had published in the Claremont Review of Books and First Things (both right-leaning publications) and the New York Review of Books and Humanist magazine (left-leaning publications), the authors collected photographs of 400 scholars (100 from each journal).

Study participants were then asked to rate them on physical attractiveness and perceived economic and social or political orientation. The scholars being graded were also assessed on their level of grooming and the quality of their portrait, in order to control for these factors.

Professor Lönnqvist found that the participants were accurate when it came to guessing political orientation from photographs. While the best-groomed scholars tended to contribute to right-leaning journals, he found that the scholars perceived as most attractive were associated with left-wing politics.

Boom! Big win for the left, huh?

Sort of, but it leaves us with something to consider. After all, a previous study indicated that politicians (not lowly scholars) on the right are considered more attractive than their left-wing counterparts. Why would the political class operate on a different level than their very near cousins the scholarly class? They don’t, and Lönnqvist explains that “this could be because voters on the Right more strongly reward candidates for good looks than voters on the Left.”

That is to say that the right benefits from a certain type of perceived attractiveness (such as grooming, or the gaudy trappings of wealth) in elections. And I think we indeed saw one (and only one) of those factors at play in our most recent electoral outing.

So let’s keep working on our media training, everybody. In the meantime, comrades, rest assured that you are the better-looking bunch.



Ryan Harrington is a senior editor at Melville House.