Works in Progress - Autumn 2010

Cutest Little Baby Face

By Jennifer Henderson | June 24, 2013


The best and brightest political candidates campaign on experience, knowledge, and issues. Yet statistics have long established that the number one predictor of electoral success is personal appearance. Beautiful people get elected more often than average-looking ones. One study’s authors looked at their research and hypothesized that “voters favor good-looking candidates either because they enjoy watching them, or because good-looking politicians are more successful in social interactions.”

Now another aspect of appearance would seem to factor into how voters evaluate their future leaders. In a study published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, researchers at the Institute of Industrial Economics in Stockholm, Sweden, surveyed nearly 3,000 people in the United States and Sweden, asking their opinions about 868 male and 917 female Finnish political candidates across four categories: baby-facedness, competence, beauty, and trustworthiness. As respondents examined four randomly selected photographs from the candidates’ own campaign materials, they scored the faces on a five-point scale. Curiously, the candidates who ranked high in baby-facedness also ranked high in perceived incompetence, yet this perception had no significant effect on electoral success.

In other words, a person with a round face, large eyes, high forehead, and small nose and chin is seen as less capable, but these childlike traits don’t preclude victory at the polls.

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