The effects of the researcher's physical attractiveness and gender on mail survey response

This study examines how using a photo in the cover letter of a mail survey affects mail survey response. A 2 × 2 factorial design was used that manipulated the physical attractiveness and gender of the supposed researcher that was depicted in the cover letter photo. In addition, a control group was used that received a cover letter without a photo. The results revealed the following: (1) a photo of the survey researcher does not enhance the response rate to the survey; (2) in the case of an attractive male researcher, a photo may dampen the response rate; and (3) within the factorial design, the only variable to have an effect on the survey's response rate was the gender variable: Photos depicting female researchers produced a higher response rate than photos depicting male researchers. This study also illustrated that a crude pretest of the survey procedures with students can, in some areas, produce fairly accurate predictions of the results of a field experiment.