Your Politics Are Written all Over Your Face

Psychologists have found that your face tells people a lot about your political leanings. Nicholas Rule and Nalini Ambady showed people photos of Democratic and Republican Senate candidates and college students, and found that people were able to predict political affiliation. The study’s participants made their judgments based on perceived character traits: Republicans were perceived as more powerful, while Democrats were perceived as “warmer.” (HT: BPS Research Digest)[%comments]


kind of an odd point, presuming that professional politicians would be better at manipulating their countenance for public viewing better than the average person- besides, how can we tell the green party candidates, by disgruntled earnest?

Marc Roston

Doesn't this more likely say "other people's political views are written all over a politician's face"? It seems more reasonable that moderate success in small time politics, (I'm assuming the photos were not of well known national politicians, but had to be publicly known affiliations,) requires that a given politician look the part?


Judging political affiliation through photos of college students is too easy; the dirty hippies with dreadlocks & piercings are Democrats.

David Chowes, New York City

Without much contemplettion, I for many years I thought that most of the time I could predict by getting a look aft the face, body language, affect, dress and...

But, by looking at Sarah Palin's presentation: she looked to me like an airline stewardess sans brains -- apolitical with little interest in politics.

Few hypothesises work all the time.

David L

I hypothesize that libertarians appear warm and powerful.


Judging political affiliation through photos of college students is too easy; the drooling ones with beer guts are clearly Republicans.


This is just an interesting point of view on the subject. Psychology experiments can prime participants to see things such as a facial expression in a different light. When shown a picture of a Nazi officer who made life very hard for many jewish prisoners, the opinion of his picture (being kind or evil) was different if told he was a Nazi or if told he helped jews escape occupied territory. How we judge expressions also depends on our moods.


"How can we tell the green party candidates, by disgruntled earnest?" -- No, by scruffy beards, unwashed hair, or other signs of your classic hippy.


The main finding of the study was this:
"the guidance of these stereotypes may lead to categorizations of others' political affiliations at rates significantly more accurate than chance guessing". It seems that the study attempts to prove that stereotypes and subconscious generalizations have inherent value in our ability to gauge disposition and even belief/behavior at a glance. The question is, are the beholder's assumptions projected onto the subject, or are subject's conforming to preconcieved notions of proper appearance?

Steve O

It's a study on the schema we have for Rs & Ds: it's difficult us to separate the individual characteristics that make up a person's character and beliefs, and, in this case, their appearance. It's very easy to say, "They're a conservative/liberal" and infer the rest. It's a useful shortcut for our brains: when you see a Republican representative from Texas, or a Democratic rep from California, most of what you assume about their voting records will be right!


Libertarians are the ones who mysteriously, beginning in 2008, began walking around with theirs tails between their legs.


As #1 and #10 collectively note, people devise heuristic ways to categorise faces and styles, and politicians are selected for in part by their ability to fill the existing roles as we think we understand them. The potential error is in imagining that a public face isn't mostly facade. No one could survive in modern politics without a well-practiced game face.

There is a lesson for prospective third party candidates, of course - learn to appear confident and forthright, yet compassionate and open-minded. Or more accurately, learn what your hoped-for constituency thinks that might look like.


If a man's left eye is more open than the right eye, it usually means that man likes other men. Many of the GOP have it. You don't see it as much among the dems.
Just another "indicator" that we can use to identify conservatives.


Libertarians look powerful, warm, cool, charming, witty, thoughtful, wise and smart, all at the same time!


The reason Democrats appear warmer is that we spend so much time in political hell...


This is quite possibly the dumbest thing I have stumbled across on the internet tonight. I dress in ripped jeans and t-shirts. My hat is on backwards and my facial hair is scruffy. My shoes are well worn and my finger nails are dirty. I vote conservative. Look at the last election Obama didn't look warm and inviting, he looked arrogant and aloof. Hillary Clinton is obviously not warm and inviting. John Kerry? Al Gore? Bill Clinton was the last serious Democratic presidential candidate to truly seem warm and friendly. Why do you think Bush won? Twice.


"But, by looking at Sarah Palin's presentation: she looked to me like an airline stewardess sans brains - apolitical with little interest in politics."
Spot on, except for the "stewardess" (afaik, she's never done that). Any day now, she'll proclaim dan quayle or rush limbaugh as the second best president the US has ever had (after the great god reagan of course)
"Judging political affiliation through photos of college students is too easy; the drooling ones with beer guts are clearly Republicans."
the cat torturers are also republicans :-)


"Why do you think Bush won? Twice."
bush won because he couldn't speak in complete sentences. also, enough voters liked the way he bobbed his head when behind a podium.


so what has been discovered, other than confirmation that the major parties have specific merchandising schemes?

take photos of ten year olds, and see if you can predict their later party affiliation. that is what those in science call "making a falsifiable prediction"

@ david #5: you don't have to try to read their facial expression. the tin foil is a dead giveaway.


American Psychology, Austrian toys far too powerful for these children to use properly. The same people who medicate away dissent, dissatisfaction with the status quo and the questioning of authority are now re-inventing phrenology. Congratulations.