Monday, February 11, 2008

From the "Judging a Book by Its Cover" Department

Researchers accurately predicted the results of Super Tuesday's elections in August of last year using Australian and New Zealand school girls' snap judgments of whether the candidates looked competent.
Researchers Scott Armstrong, Kesten Green, Randy Jones, and Malcolm Wright had their interest piqued by the work of Alexander Todorov.

“Todorov and co had found that snap judgments of competence based on color pictures of candidates’ faces did a good job of predicting congressional and senate races,” Prof Wright said.

“So the Wharton team decided to extend the test to the current US presidential election and from May through mid-August 2007 we worked with them to get ratings of competence, based on photos of the faces of the 24 potential contenders for their parties’ nomination as candidate for the 2008 presidential election.”
Only a little bit scary to think that the entire process of picking a president could boil down to who looks presidential. Australian and New Zealand school girls were picked precisely because they did not know the candidates. The results of those who recognized a candidate were discounted. The full article is here.

1 comment:

Dr. Gordon Patzer said...

More than a little bit scary, voters really do elect presidential candidates to be president based on their good looks or not so good looks. Hard, solid, objective research data document this fact. And voters do this both consciously and subconsciously.

Even if voters are aware of the physical attractiveness influence, they deny it.

Time and time again we see that people give socially acceptable answers to surveys conducted for political polls or for marketing research. When it comes to casting votes due in part to some presumably superficial factor as good looks, or not so good looks, no one will admit such. However, as the presidential campaigns advance, we are certain to see news reports and late night talk show segments that reveal the reality that many voters tend to be clueless about the policies and stands of the candidates.

Would any of the current finalist contenders have a chance or gotten to this stage if they were born with looks routinely considered ugly? I doubt it.

Beyond speculations and sadly humorous mass-media portrayals of the uniformed electorate, voters historically and overwhelmingly have elected the more physically attractive of the finalists to be president. This happens far more than by statistical chance.

Although many dimensions define the appearance of a person, the dimension of physical attractiveness is a prevailing dimension that more often than not proves more influential than other visible factors, including gender and race. Ultimately, as discomforting, distasteful and publicly denied this influence might be, it is with rare exception when higher physical attractiveness does not translate into greater perceptions of trustworthiness, expertise, leadership ability, liking, and, ultimately, more votes cast.

As long as those good looks are not too good and as long as those good looking people supposedly expend no effort or attention to achieve them, good looks are gold in presidential campaigns.

Gordon Patzer
author of "Looks: Why They Matter More Than You Ever Imagined"