Candidate Appearance Matters

Appearance matters – but not in the same way for male and female political candidates. Limiting this discussion to the beauty-relevant elements of Chiao, Bowman, & Gill’s 2008 study, being attractive has an effect on rates of voting for female candidates while appearing approachable has an effect on women’s rates of voting for male candidates (in a laboratory simulation). It is important to note that no other information about each candidate was given to the laboratory rater/voters.

Since the photographs were of actual candidates in U.S. Congressional elections, the authors were able to also assess how ratings of attractiveness and approachability of faces in photographs in the lab related to real-world election results. Using this metric, female candidates’ attractiveness had a much smaller effect overall (r=.09*); as did male candidates’ approachability for women (r=.18*). Appearance does seem to matter for political candidates, but, appearance is not the only thing voters attend to when voting.

Strengths

  • Stimuli were of actual political candidates

Limitations

  • Subjects were undergraduate students at Northwestern University

Interestingly, in the actual congressional elections, laboratory ratings of how competent and dominant faces appeared correlated with a candidate getting elected.

Wayne Hooke
*not statistically significant



ResearchBlogging.orgChiao, J., Bowman, N., & Gill, H. (2008). The Political Gender Gap: Gender Bias in Facial Inferences that Predict Voting Behavior PLoS ONE, 3 (10) DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0003666


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  1. May 2, 2012 at 9:28 pm

    I was just reading Todorov’s study about this very same thing! His conclusions are similar, although he thinks it’s more about an appearance competence. If only Newt had known – he probably wouldn’t be 4 million in debt right now. http://webscript.princeton.edu/~tlab/wp-content/publications/Todorov_Science2005.pdf

  1. June 30, 2010 at 5:37 pm
  2. August 19, 2010 at 1:58 pm

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