Thursday, October 25, 2007

Face Time!

Predicting political elections from rapid and unreflective face judgments

Charles Ballew & Alexander Todorov
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, forthcoming

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.

(nod to KL)