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Kids Say Kids With Glasses Look Smarter

Some people who wear glasses are really smart. Evan O'Dorney, from Danville, Calif., won the 2007 Scripps National Spelling Bee and got to meet President Bush. O'Dorney, 14, spelled "serrefine" correctly to win. AP Photo/Charles Dharapak

Some children dread getting glasses.

Researcher Jeffrey Walline repeats some age-old advice for parents: Tell your kids they'll look smarter in spectacles. And now he has a study to back up the advice.

The assistant professor of optometry at Ohio State University and his colleagues surveyed 42 girls and 38 boys between the ages of 6 and 10 to get their views on glasses.

The majority thought kids wearing glasses looked smarter and more honest than non-spectacled peers.

“If the impression of looking smarter will appeal to a child, I would use that information and tell the child it is based on research,” Walline said. “Most kids getting glasses for the first time are sensitive about how they’re going to look. Some kids simply refuse to wear glasses because they think they’ll look ugly.”

The study, not funded or supported by any outside money, is published in the May issue of the journal Ophthalmic and Physiological Optics.

The researchers used 24 pairs of pictures showing children with and without glasses of varying gender and ethnicity.

When presented with the photos, the young study participants were asked: Which child would you rather play with? Which looks smarter? Looks better at playing sports? Is better looking? Looks more shy? Looks more honest?

On average, two-thirds of the participating children said they thought that kids wearing glasses looked smarter, and 57 percent said they thought kids with glasses appeared to be more honest. The results held regardless of whether participants themselves sported spectacles. (Among the study participants, 38 percent wore glasses.)

The study also found no connection between wearing glasses and perceptions regarding the other four questions, however.

Walline figures media portrayals associating spectacles with intelligence may be reinforcing a stereotype that even young children accept.

"I would tell children that glasses have become a fashion statement, so kids don’t tend to choose who they play with based on whether or not the child is wearing glasses," Walline told LiveScience.

Robert Roy Britt
Rob was a writer and editor at Space.com starting in 1999. He served as managing editor of Live Science at its launch in 2004. He is now Chief Content Officer overseeing media properties for the sites’ parent company, Purch. Prior to joining the company, Rob was an editor at The Star-Ledger in New Jersey, and in 1998 he was founder and editor of the science news website ExploreZone. He has a journalism degree from Humboldt State University in California.