Psychologist Alexander Todorov of Princeton University
had volunteers look at black-and-white photographs of House and Senate
winners and losers from elections in 2000 and 2002, and the competing
candidates prior to the 2004 contests. The faces had to be unknown to
the participants; images of Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., John
McCain, R-Ariz., and John Kerry, D-Mass., for example, were immediately
“It was just on facial appearance, it could not be influenced by any other information,” Todorov said in an interview.
The study (reported here) found that the candidate perceived as more competent was
the winner in 72 percent of the Senate races and 67 percent of the
The primary distinguishing factor appears to be that voters do not like babyfaced men (a round face, large eyes, small nose, high forehead and small chin).
Competency appears to be associated with facial maturity. But are the voters correct in their biases? It would appear not:
In fact, studies by Zebrowitz and others have shown that
babyfaced men are actually more intelligent, better educated, more
assertive and apt to win more military medals than their mature-looking
Research in the area of facial impressions has implications for
political marketing, social decision-making and even the democratic
process, Zebrowitz believes. "The data we have suggest that we’re not
necessarily electing better leaders – people who are actually more
competent, though we are electing people who look the part."
Randall Parker at FuturePundit opines:
Democracy is flawed because humans are shallow and superficial.
Maybe blind voters make better decisions. Anyone up for restricting the
voting franchise to the blind only? Ugly talented candidates would fare
much better. Think about it.