Princeton psychologist Alexander Todorov has demonstrated that quick facial judgments can accurately predict real-world election returns. Todorov has taken some of his previous research that showed that people unconsciously judge the competence of an unfamiliar face within a tenth of a second, and he has moved it to the political arena. His lab tests show that a rapid appraisal of the relative competence of two candidates' faces was sufficient to predict the winner in about 70 percent of the races for U.S. senator and state governor in the 2006 elections.This means Hillary Clinton is vulnerable not because she’s a corrupt, crypto-Marxist shrew, but because she’s dumpy looking. And while a few people will vote against Mitt Romney because he’s a Mormon, far more will vote for him because he looks a little bit like a cross between Bruce Wayne and Ward Cleaver. Interestingly:
"Political scientists have spent 50 years documenting only modest effects of the media on voting behavior, but Todorov's research suggests we may have been looking in the wrong place," said Chappell Lawson, an associate professor of political science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. "Most of these previous studies have relied on transcripts or printed records of what the media say, with much less attention to visual images."
Lawson, who called Todorov's work "pioneering," added that some of his own work corroborates the new findings, indicating that competence appears to be a universal quality, recognizable across cultures. His research shows that American observers could predict the outcome of elections in Mexico based on the same gut reactions.
"Both of these papers speak to the seminal quality of appearance in candidate success," Lawson said. "Our findings surprised us, because Mexican politicians often emphasize very different aspects of their appearance, such as facial hair, which American political figures avoid. But Americans could still pick out the Mexican winners. Our data show effects at least as strong as those Todorov found."