Every vote counts, it's true. But where are voters getting the motivation to decide how to vote? What leading criteria determine who and what the voters choose to pull the levers for? (OK, nowadays, voters fill in little ovals with a pen or pencil, or complete arrows with a drawn line, but that's not as quaint as "pull the levers".)
In the June 2010 edition of a behavior journal, it was suggested that appearances win. So the average person picks their candidates the way producers pick reality TV group members: on the shallowness of outward appearance. No surprise to me, "appearance is most likely to influence less knowledgeable voters who watch a lot of television," explains a science Web site, PhysOrg.com, in their piece on the behavior journal's article.
Are voters truly sophisticated and rational decision makers? Apparently not. Their choices are heavily influenced by superficial, nonverbal cues, such as politicians' appearance, according to Christopher Olivola from University College London in the UK and Alexander Todorov from Princeton University in the US. According to their findings, voters make judgments about politicians' competence based on their facial appearance and these appearance-based competence judgments reliably predict both voting decisions and election outcomes. The research is published in the June 2010 issue of theJournal of Nonverbal Behavior.
The researchers also discuss the potential impact of these judgments on actual voters and show that appearance is most likely to influence less knowledgeable voters who watch a lot of television, a finding consistent with psychological models of persuasion.
Research to date suggests that rapid judgments about the personality traits of political candidates, based solely on their appearance, can predict their electoral success. In other words, voters rely heavily on appearances when choosing which candidate to elect. Since voters need to navigate their way through the flood of information available about candidates in order to make fully informed choices, it is no surprise that they take mental shortcuts to get to their final decision.
After reviewing the published literature on this topic, the authors then introduce a computer model of facial personality traits to identify the particular facial features associated with competence judgments. By manipulating the degree of competence of faces on a screen, they are able to show that facial maturity and physical attractiveness are the two main criteria used by participants to make competence judgments.