Which of these politicians would you vote for?They’re the same right?Not exactly, in an experiment Danish Researchers modified the real face to make it look more dominant or more feminine.Those subtle changes made a difference says Princeton University psychology professor Alexander Todorov.
“Right-wing voters were more receptive to the message of this politician, when the message was paired with this more dominant looking face.And liberal voters were more persuaded, when the same message was accompanied by this other image of a more feminine-looking leader.”
That’s one example from Todorov new book, Face Value.He describes the unconscious judgments we make based solely on looks and how those judgments have consequences like deciding elections.For example, Todorov has found he could predict most races with a single test.He showed subjects actual campaign photos of opposing candidates and asked which one is more competent.The candidate, judged more competent based solely on a picture, was the one that won the election 70 percent of the time.
“I was certainly surprised, because this is a really important races.There’s tons of money going into it and there are lots of other variables.And yet we were able to predict a large percentage of the elections.”
Todorov says the effect is strongest on voters who know the least about political issues.That’s not completely irrational he says.
“You can say that people looking for the right information competence in the wrong place appearance.Because it’s easy and that’s the kind of the story of a lot of the psychology of decision making,to a large extent we make lots of judgments to rank and short cuts.”
For example studies have found people who look more trustworthy get loans at lower interest rates.Criminals get harsher sentences based on their appearance.
“Those who got the death sentence appeared more untrustworthy as measured by life observers.So this is sort of like the extreme examples, where that could play a incredibly important role.Now it’s becoming more incompetent up here.”
Though first impressions are often wrong, Todorov says they are fast and automatic.
“It’s very hard to retrain people not to use them.I mean the best you can do I guess is make them aware and use different kinds of information, but again it’s easier said than done.”
It takes more effort for voters to learn about the candidates, but Todoreov says informed voters are not fooled by first impressions.
Steve Baragona VOA News Princeton, New Jersey.