Predicting political elections from rapid and unreflective face judgments

Edited by Edward E. Smith, Columbia University, New York, NY, and approved September 25, 2007
November 13, 2007
104 (46) 17948-17953

Abstract

Here we show that rapid judgments of competence based solely on the facial appearance of candidates predicted the outcomes of gubernatorial elections, the most important elections in the United States next to the presidential elections. In all experiments, participants were presented with the faces of the winner and the runner-up and asked to decide who is more competent. To ensure that competence judgments were based solely on facial appearance and not on prior person knowledge, judgments for races in which the participant recognized any of the faces were excluded from all analyses. Predictions were as accurate after a 100-ms exposure to the faces of the winner and the runner-up as exposure after 250 ms and unlimited time exposure (Experiment 1). Asking participants to deliberate and make a good judgment dramatically increased the response times and reduced the predictive accuracy of judgments relative to both judgments made after 250 ms of exposure to the faces and judgments made within a response deadline of 2 s (Experiment 2). Finally, competence judgments collected before the elections in 2006 predicted 68.6% of the gubernatorial races and 72.4% of the Senate races (Experiment 3). These effects were independent of the incumbency status of the candidates. The findings suggest that rapid, unreflective judgments of competence from faces can affect voting decisions.

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Acknowledgments

We thank Amir Goren and Crystal Hall for comments on an earlier version of this paper, and Manish Pakrashi and Valerie Loehr for their help in running the experiments.

Supporting Information

Adobe PDF - 05435Fig5.pdf
Adobe PDF - 05435Fig5.pdf
Adobe PDF - 05435Fig6.pdf
Adobe PDF - 05435Fig6.pdf

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Information & Authors

Information

Published in

Go to Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Vol. 104 | No. 46
November 13, 2007
PubMed: 17959769

Classifications

Submission history

Received: June 10, 2007
Published online: November 13, 2007
Published in issue: November 13, 2007

Keywords

  1. face perception
  2. social judgments
  3. voting decisions

Acknowledgments

We thank Amir Goren and Crystal Hall for comments on an earlier version of this paper, and Manish Pakrashi and Valerie Loehr for their help in running the experiments.

Notes

This article is a PNAS Direct Submission.
§
This measure did not contribute any additional information over the information gained from the binary competence judgments. Details are provided in SI Text.
This article contains supporting information online at www.pnas.org/cgi/content/full/0705435104/DC1.

Authors

Affiliations

Charles C. Ballew, II
Department of Psychology and
Alexander Todorov [email protected]
Department of Psychology and
Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ 08540

Notes

To whom correspondence should be addressed. E-mail: [email protected]
Author contributions: C.C.B. and A.T. designed research; C.C.B. performed research; A.T. analyzed data; and A.T. wrote the paper.

Competing Interests

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

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    Predicting political elections from rapid and unreflective face judgments
    Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
    • Vol. 104
    • No. 46
    • pp. 17899-18344

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