I thought I was going to squeeze out a win for Team Non-Beauty when I saw, at Slate, that The Explainer’s 2011 Question of the Year turned out to be Why Are Smart People Usually Ugly? Woohoo! I thought. If we can’t be good, we can sure claim the intellectual high ground and devote ourselves to being evil genii. I am Mojo Jojo! You must obey! But Nooooooooo.
Turns out, some studies show a general correlation between beauty and smarts, which I should have figured out from the sheer number of Librarian Takes Off Her Glasses and Lets Down Her Sexy Hair scenes to which I have been exposed in a lifetime of sucking up popular entertainment.
Booth: All right, what I want you to do is take off your glasses, shake out your hair, and say,”Mr. Booth, do you know what the penalty is for an overdue book?”Brennan: Why?Booth: Never mind.—, “The Passenger in the Oven”
What’s worse, The Explainer found even stronger evidence of a correlation between not-so-beautiful and not-so-smart.
Another researcher, Leslie Zebrowitz of Brandeis University, noticed that the looks-smarts relationship applies only to the ugly side of the spectrum. It’s not that beautiful people are especially smart, she says, so much as that people are especially .
But what about the nerd trope? What about famously unbeautiful brainiacs like Jean-Paul Sartre and Eleanor Roosevelt? What, in the name of Athena, about Socrates himself–the crooked gargoyle who came up with the Grecian Formula of Beauty = Goodness in the first place?
Exceptions. Ugly, it seems, is a U-shaped curve, with clusters on both ends. Ugly people tend to be either lots smarter than non-ugly people (rare), or lots dumber (much more common). You can say this about Team Non-Beauty: we’re never mediocre.