In some sort of cross between wincing sexism and serious academic study, researchers have shown that attractive athletes have apparently figured out that it pays to be both great-looking and good at their sport.
As you may have surmised, an athlete can likely control only one of those variables, but there’s evidence to suggest if he or she deduces that there is no possible payoff in endorsements beyond the standard winner’s check, the motivation just isn’t there.
The study, by two researchers at Sogang University in Seoul, South Korea, takes off from past research that has shown that attractive people make more money than average-looking people, even after controlling for individual characteristics.
Their theory: if a so-called beauty premium exists, it could influence “labor supply decisions” of attractive workers. In other words, if an attractive worker understands their performance is more greatly rewarded, they may endeavor to improve that performance.
The researchers logged performances on the US women’s professional golf tour and discovered that “attractive” (how this was determined – no idea) players posted lower scores and earned more prize money than “average-looking” players.
Interestingly, this tendency only showed up for the range of average-looking to great-looking. Below average, researchers found no differences in looks on tournament scores.
On the Freakonomics blog, Daniel Hamermesh calls this the “Sharapova Effect,” but readers are invited to appropriate their own personal favorite when spreading the latest in economic research.