Beards, Scholarship, and Trustworthiness

Listening to the radio this morning (93.3 WMMR Philadelphia, the Preston and Steve Show!), they were talking about the trustworthiness of men with beards verses men who are clean-shaven.  The study is not new, though; it is from a year ago.  According to the study found in the Journal of Marketing Communications:

The study showed participants pictures of men endorsing certain products. In some photos, the men were clean-shaven. In others, the same men had beards. Participants thought the men with beards had greater expertise and were significantly more trustworthy when they were endorsing products like cell phones and toothpaste.

But, oddly, men with beards were slightly less effective than smooth-cheeked fellows in underwear advertisements. Apparently we don’t want Zach Galifianakis selling us boxers.

But this is something we, in the academic community, have instinctively known to be true.  Any academic who has ever worked on an peer-reviewed paper, a thesis, has edited a collection of essays, or has written a monograph, can tell you about the monstrosity known as the ‘thesis beard‘ (which goes along with the a ‘thesis gut’).  The thesis beard is a sudden and rapid growth of facial hair over the course of your paper-writing, thesis-research/writing, volume-editing, grading (essentially any academic activity–I have a theory that this thesis beard grows even while in the process of giving a lecture) which starts sometime during your enrollment into undergrad programs and continues throughout the rest of your career.  This process is a result of spending long hours at a computer, time be damned.

And it appears that this process does not stop.  PhD Comics has a theory that hair actually migrates the longer you’re a professor, well into tenure status!

You see, the longer one is in the position of authority in the academy, the beard remains.  It is a symbol of their dominion over facts (those pesky things): ‘I am trustworthy, buy my new book on (such and such a subject that only a few select specialists will understand and appreciate), and believe whatever I say!’  And people will, as it turns out, since people with beards prove to be more trustworthy than those without.  This is why scholars are ‘experts’ and ‘specialists’.  It has nothing to do with their research, their language prowess, their grasp of postmodern concepts.  It is based solely on their beards.   And so it is; another dark academic secret revealed!

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