Peregrine flight

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Political Mugs

There is an interesting new study that has been recently announced, soon to be published by UCLA researchers Colleen Carpinella and Kerri Johnson, that shows that republican politicians tend to look more feminine than their democratic peers. The findings will soon be published online in the peer-reviewed Journal of Experimental Social Psychology.

It will be interesting to see if the findings extend to the constituencies as well. This new field of study is called "social vision," and is dedicated to understanding how others are perceived based on subtle visual cues.

"Female politicians with stereotypically feminine facial features are more likely to be Republican than Democrat, and the correlation increases the more conservative the lawmaker's voting record," said lead author  Carpinella.

"The Democratic Party is associated with social liberal policies that aim to diminish gender disparities, whereas the Republican Party is associated with socially conservative policy issues that tend to bolster traditional sex roles," Johnson said. "These policy platforms are manifest in each party's image — apparently also in the physical characteristics exhibited by politicians."

"I suppose we could call it the 'Michele Bachmann effect,'" said Kerri Johnson, the study's senior author and an assistant professor of communication studies and psychology at UCLA.

"We suspect that conservative constituents demand that their politicians be not just competent but also gender-typical, especially among women," Johnson said. "As a result, we think these women may find themselves in a double bind."

Interestingly, Republican male politicians tend to have more feminized features than their democratic brethren. The faces of male Republicans, on average, scored as less masculine than the faces of their Democratic counterparts.

"It may be unnecessary for Republican men to exhibit masculinity through their appearance," Carpinella said. "Their policy advocacy and leadership roles may already confer these characteristics on them."
"They started the project by feeding portraits of 434 members of the 111th House of Representatives into a computer modeling program used by researchers in their field. Loaded with a database of hundreds of scans of faces of men and women, the FaceGen Modeler allows researchers to measure how much the details of any one face approach the average for either gender.

The model compared each representative's face to the norm on more than 100 subtle dimensions, including the shape of the jaw, the location of eyebrows, the placement of cheek bones, the shape of eyes, the contour of the forehead, the fullness of the lips and the distance between such features as the bottom of the nose and the top of the lip. Armed with these dimensions, the researchers were able to arrive at an amalgamated score assessing the extent to which the face exhibited characteristics common to men or to women. Theoretical values ranged from -40 (highly male-typed) to +40 (highly female-typed).
Researchers then showed 120 undergraduates photos of the 434 politicians and asked them to guess the lawmaker's political party. When the undergraduates guessed that a politician was Republican, their judgments were 98 percent more likely to be accurate for women with the highest rankings for femininity; the accuracy of their judgments increased the more feminine the politician's face. When the undergraduates guessed that a politician was Democrat, their judgments were 58 percent less likely to be accurate for more feminine-looking women, and the accuracy of their judgments decreased the more feminine the politician's face."


Anonymous said...

Stupid research, absolute waste of taxpayer money.

Blue Heron said...

I guess I missed the part where they say that this research was publicly funded... I don't think it's stupid, especially with their accuracy rates.

Ken Seals said...