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Monday, June 18, 2012

Why looks do matter

Just when you thought that political life was becoming one of substance again, the Guardian reports that looks and people's physical impressions of a candidate may be more important that what they stand for.

The paper says that many people vote along party lines, but many others don't, and instead they ponder the data on both candidates before making a decision. They add that studies have found that although voters are usually unaware of factoring appearance into their decision, it may often be a deciding factor:

In one experiment conducted at the University of California, researchers asked several groups of subjects to examine political flyers describing two candidates who were supposedly running in a nearby congressional election. Each flyer included a candidate photo, but the researchers varied the photos shown to the different groups in order to study the effect of a more-or-less-competent appearance.

The researchers found that the effect of a more competent look amounted to a vote swing of 13%. What's more, when the subjects were later asked about their reasons for voting as they did, they denied having taken the candidates' appearance into account. They may have consciously registered the candidates' appearance, but felt – wrongly – that they could disregard that, and make a purely rational decision based solely on the substance of the candidates' positions.

A pair of scientists at Princeton University took that line of research from the laboratory to the real world. They gathered black-and-white headshots of all the Democratic and Republican candidates in dozens of US Senate and gubernatorial races. They then recruited a group of volunteers to assess, in each case, which candidate looked more "competent". Finally, the scientists took a bold step: they predicted the outcome of each race based solely on the candidates' appearance. They were strikingly accurate: the candidate voted as more competent-looking went on to win in 69% of the gubernatorial races and 72% of the Senate races.

Now where did I put the number of that plastic surgeon?
define "competent looking" ??
I can't but then it is not my survey nor were the terms mine either.
Competent means having a moustache and a parrot-like tie.
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