Taking our leaders at face value

Kurt Kleiner in the Toronto Star:

It’s hard to untangle how actual voters, faced with a live candidate, are affected by the face, partly because their feelings about a candidate’s policies and personality might affect their perceptions.

TonySo Anthony C. Little, a psychologist at the University of Stirling in Scotland, and colleagues decided to use computerized “morphing” techniques to examine the question.

In research published in the journal Evolution and Human Behavior, they used the faces of candidates from eight real elections in the U.S., New Zealand, and Great Britain, including candidates George W. Bush and John Kerry from the 2004 U.S. presidential election.

Then they used a computer-imaging technique to combine each face with a nondescript male face that had been created by averaging the faces of 10 university students.

The result was a pair of faces that was not recognizable as either candidate, but nevertheless bore a sort of family resemblance to the originals – young, unblemished, they could have been the candidates’ college-age nephews. The altered Bush has narrow-set eyes and a slightly heavy brow, the altered Kerry wide-set eyes and a long face.

Then the researchers asked people to look at the faces and say who they would vote for.

In all eight races, the votes based on composite faces gave the same results as the actual elections.

More here.  [Photo shows Anthony C. Little.]