The Hotties and the Notties

by John Sides on January 21, 2009 · 20 comments

in Frivolity

(This post is by Henry, but b/c of a technical glitch is being published by John Sides, who is entirely innocent of any blame for it.)

Continuing our series of serious inquiries into whether academia in general, and political science in particular is a sexy profession, we actually have Real Social Scientific Data that we can bring to bear on this topic.[1] In 2006, James Felton, Peter T. Koper, John Mitchell and Michael Stinson have conducted research that sought to establish, inter alia how perceived hotness of professors affected their RateMyProfessors evaluations for teaching quality. As part of this exercise, Felton et al. ranked (Table 2 in their paper) the relative hotness quotients of 36 different academic disciplines. My estimable colleague Professor Sides has prepared a nice graph of the data (see below).

hotness.png

Three important research findings leap out from this picture.

First, that academic disciplines are, without exception, more “not” than “hot.” When adjusted positive and negative hotness scores are totted up against each other, no discipline is even above 0. Thus, the main hypothesis of Careerbuilder et al. (2009) is decisively refuted.

Second, the above proviso aside, political scientists are pretty damn hot in comparative terms. We rank as number 5, trailing only languages, law, religion and criminal justice. From eyeballing the data, it looks as though there is a minor discontinuity right after political science, where the hotness lurches down a notch, and another, more significant one between psychology (at number 10) and finance (at number 11).

Third, economists are, without any jot, tittle, scintilla or iota of doubt or ambiguity, the notties rather than the hotties of the social sciences (coming 30th out of 36). Suck on it.

fn1. Real Social Scientific Data is a term of art here, which covers the broad category of ‘statistics that are sufficiently entertaining that I really don’t want to look at them too hard.’ This understanding of data is commonly applied (especially in the popular press, but often enough in academia too), although rarely acknowledged in explicit terms.

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