Politics: It’s All in the Face

Voters make judgments about politicians’ competence based on their facial appearance.

The article, “On the Face of It” posted on the ScienceDaily website, showed that research conducted by Christopher Olivola (University College London in the UK) and Alexander Todorov (Princeton University) suggests that these appearance based judgments predict voting decisions and election outcomes.

Voter’s choices are influenced by nonverbal cues.  Research also suggests that appearance is less likely to influence knowledgeable voters.

Current research indicates that rapid judgments about personality traits of political candidates, based on their appearance, can predict their electoral success.  The research conducted by Olivola and Todorov called “Elected in 100 milliseconds: appearance-based trait inferences and voting” is published in the June 2010 issue of the Journal of Nonverbal Behavior, a Springer publication.

After reviewing literature on this topic, researchers introduced a computer model of facial personality traits to identify specific facial features associated with competence judgments.   They were able to define the two main criteria used by participants to make competence judgments:  facial maturity and physical attractiveness.

Olivola and Todorov conclude that, “Often people don’t even recognize that they are forming judgments about others from their appearances.  Getting people to overcome the influence of first impressions will not be an easy task.”

Their solution to the query, control the exposure to television and other media, which is extremely difficult, so educating voters is likely the most realistic strategy.

What do you think?  Can we ever keep voters from being swayed by superficial qualities?  Are your votes influenced by appearances?

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