The Situationist

Voting for a Face

Posted by The Situationist Staff on July 6, 2008

Barack Obama - Image by omgsaywhatt - FlickrAnn Ryman for the Arizona Republic has an interesting piece summarizing the research examining how looks influence votes. Here are a few excerpts.

* * *

A growing body of research supports the notion that a candidate’s attempts to establish himself as a powerful leader can be helped or hurt by his facial features. Appearance is not, of course, the sole factor that sways voters, but experts who have studied the link between faces and people’s perceptions say we place more emphasis on looks than we think.

Facial structure can play a role in how trustworthy, strong and charismatic we perceive someone to be, said Caroline Keating, a psychology professor at Colgate University who studies facial structure and perceptions of power.

* * *

“One reason why it’s so important for us to perceive our leaders as competent, credible and sincere is because that makes us feel secure,” Keating said. “We identify with leaders. If leaders look confident, brave, bold and true, then we feel we can take on the world.”

Keating has conducted research on people’s reactions to former Presidents Reagan and Kennedy. Using digital images, she made subtle, almost undetectable changes designed to enhance or diminish their facial features and tested reactions. . . .

* * *

There is evidence that people can often predict the election winners just by looking at faces.

John McCain Image by Wigwam Jones - FlickrAlexander Todorov, an assistant professor of psychology at Princeton University, gave people photos of unfamiliar political candidates who won and were runners-up in state governor races. He asked people to pick the most competent candidates, and they chose the winners 68 percent of the time.

Whether this reliance on snap judgments is good or bad is hard to tell, Keating said.

“What’s the job of a leader? It’s to move us,” she said. “If you don’t look sincere, then you’re never going to move anybody. You’re not going to instill in them the confidence and the emotional tenor you need to get them to sign onto the programs you think are important. So, when it comes to motivating people, it’s all about the non-verbal.”

* * *

To read the entire article (which includes a analysis of McCain and Obama’s facial features, click here. For other posts on the Situation of politics, click here.

About these ads

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

 
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 826 other followers

%d bloggers like this: