Uncommon Knowledge

Daughters shape the man

And more surprising insights from the social sciences

Too pretty to hire

A lot of research and experience suggest that attractive people have a leg up in life, including in the job market. But is this always the case? Researchers sent bogus resumes in response to thousands of job postings in Israel. In that country, it’s more common, though still optional, to include a photo with one’s resume. So half of the resumes were sent with a photo—of either an attractive or unattractive man or woman—and half without. Attractive men were significantly more likely to be invited for an interview than unattractive men or men without photos. However, attractive women were significantly less likely to be invited for an interview, especially when the company itself—and not an employment agency—made the call. The researchers suggest that this fact—and the fact that the overwhelming majority of the recruiters were women, many of them young and single—may indicate that jealously is behind such discrimination.

 Ruffle, B. & Shtudiner, Z., “Are Good-Looking People More Employable?” Management Science (forthcoming).

Daughters shape the man

Former vice president Dick Cheney was known as—to borrow the words in which Mitt Romney cloaked himself—a “severely conservative” politician. Yet Cheney also stood out from the Bush administration in support of gay marriage. Cheney has a lesbian daughter. Coincidence? A new study finds a similar phenomenon among federal appeals court judges. When voting on cases related to women’s rights or discrimination against women, judges voted more liberally when they had at least one daughter. However, they were not more liberal on other kinds of cases. And the effect was “driven largely by Republican male appointees.” Because the effect was not stronger for judges with more than one daughter, it doesn’t seem to be the result of social influence. But since it mainly affected male judges, it does seem to be the result of gaining empathy for women.

 Glynn, A. & Sen, M., “Identifying Judicial Empathy: Does Having Daughters Cause Judges to Rule for Women’s Issues?” American Journal of Political Science (forthcoming).

The cult of the
(solo) creator

Many artists work alone. Maybe that’s just their personality, but a new study by researchers at Yale suggests another reason for this. People judged a sculpture, a painting, or a poem to be of lower quality if they were told that it was the product of more than one artist or author, regardless of whether it actually was. Why? The researchers found that people tend to judge quality based on the individual effort required to create a work, not the total effort that went into it.

 Smith, R. & Newman, G., “When Multiple Creators Are Worse than One: The Bias toward Single Authors in the Evaluation of Art,” Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts (forthcoming).

Are Republicans
really happier?


Previous research has found that conservatives are, on average, happier than liberals. However, a new analysis of Pew polling data on life satisfaction finds that this difference is “very small,” and even disappears when controlling for demographic factors and the state of the economy. The analysis did find a small but statistically significant effect on life satisfaction depending on whether one’s party held the White House—an effect that was amplified for Republicans. In other words, Republicans are a little more sensitive to who holds the reins of power.

 Mandel, D. & Omorogbe, P., “Political Differences in Past, Present, and Future Life Satisfaction: Republicans Are More Sensitive than Democrats to Political Climate,” PLoS ONE (June 2014).

Goodbye, bowling club

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In a 1995 article (which developed into the best-selling book “Bowling Alone”), Harvard professor Robert Putnam made the distressing observation that Americans—once a nation of joiners and participants—seemed to be losing their impulse to do things together. “There is striking evidence...that the vibrancy of American civil society has notably declined over the past several decades,” he wrote. New evidence from sociologists at the University of Wyoming and the University of Texas at Austin backs him up. They analyzed the Iowa Community Survey, which surveyed “approximately 10,000 citizens in 99 small towns in Iowa” in 1994 and again in 2004, and found that Iowans did indeed have fewer memberships in 2004 across all categories of associations, with an increase in “checkbook” memberships (nominal group membership, without really participating) that was more than offset by the decline in face-to-face involvement. This pattern held up even when controlling for gender, age, education, household children, homeownership, and tenure in the community. A similar pattern was found in national survey data.

 Painter, M. & Paxton, P., “Checkbooks in the Heartland: Change over Time in Voluntary Association Membership,” Sociological Forum (June 2014).

Kevin Lewis is an Ideas columnist.
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