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June 10, 2005

Face value

For politicians, it’s not who you are or what you say—it’s whether you look like a baby:

The baby-face effect has been identified in two papers published today in the journal Science. The first study, led by Alexander Todorov, of Princeton University in New Jersey, examined US Senate races in 2000, 2002 and 2004, and US House of Representatives contests in 2002 and 2004.
Volunteers were asked to view pictures of the two leading candidates in each race, and asked to rate their faces for seven traits: competence, intelligence, leadership, honesty, trustworthiness, charisma and likeability. The results were ignored if either candidate was recognised.
The researchers found that scores for competence accurately predicted the results of the elections 70 per cent of the time, a much higher effect than would be expected by chance. None of the other factors had any measurable impact. In the second paper, Leslie Zebrowitz, of Brandeis University in Massachusetts, said that the results appeared to reflect the relative “baby-facedness” of the candidates.
Previous research has shown that people of any age who appear baby-faced, with a round face, large eyes, a small nose, a high forehead and a small chin, tend to be rated as less competent — though often as more trustworthy as well. “Although the study doesn’t tell us exactly what competence is — there are many kinds, including physical strength, social dominance and intellectual shrewdness. Baby-faced people are perceived to be lacking in all these qualities,” Dr Zebrowitz said.

Hmm, but babyface Bush beat craggy Kerry—what’s up with that?

It might explain the warmongering, though. According to David Eichenbaum, a political media consultant, “‘baby-faced’ has to seem confident and self-assured. Otherwise it plays into fears of someone too young and not ready for the big time.”

Thanks to FuturePundit for the tip.

Posted by Stephen at 11:28 AM in Politics | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

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