Wednesday, October 24, 2007

"Competent" Faces Win Elections

Wanna win an elected office? Your chances of victory may depend significantly on your appearance. A study conducted at Princeton suggests many American voters cast their ballots based on their first impression of a candidate's face. Read the study for yourself:

A Todorov, A.N. Mandisodza, A. Goren, C.C. Hall, "Inference of competence from faces predict election outcomes,'' Science, vol. 308, no. 5728, Jun 2005: pp. 1623-1626.

The abstract:
We show that inferences of competence based solely on facial appearance predicted the outcomes of U.S. congressional elections better than chance (e.g., 68.8% of the Senate races in 2004) and also were linearly related to the margin of victory. These inferences were specific to competence and occurred within a 1-second exposure to the faces of the candidates. The findings suggest that rapid, unreflective trait inferences can contribute to voting choices, which are widely assumed to be based primarily on rational and deliberative considerations.
Comments from a recent National Geographic News article:
The study suggests unconsidered responses could be more important to some voters than a rational study of a candidate's merits.

Over the course of five election seasons between 2000 and 2004, researchers from Princeton University showed potential voters photographs of political candidates running in a slew of U.S. congressional races.

The voters were told nothing about the candidates, who were running for seats in both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives.

Researchers tested voters' snap judgments about the political candidates. Attractiveness, honesty, and likeability were just some of the traits measured, but the one that stood out for voters was a candidate's competence.

Voters' competence ratings were based solely on the appearance of a candidate's face and predicted the outcomes in U.S. congressional races over five election seasons at a rate of nearly 70 percent.
Interesting. Guess this means I'll never be elected--unless the voting population is all blind ;-)

Hat tip: NPR

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