Early Processing of Gendered Facial Cues Predicts the Electoral Success of Female Politicians

Eric Hehman, Colleen M. Carpinella, Kerri L. Johnson, Jordan B. Leitner, Jonathan B. Freeman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This research examined how the typicality of gender cues in politicians’ faces related to their electoral success. Previous research has shown that faces with subtle gender-atypical cues elicit cognitive competition between male and female categories, which perceivers resolve during face perception. To assess whether this competition adversely impacted politicians’ electoral success, participants categorized the gender of politicians’ faces in a hand-tracking paradigm. Gender-category competition was indexed by the hand’s attraction to the incorrect gender response. Greater gender-category competition predicted a decreased likelihood of votes, but only for female politicians. Time-course analyses revealed that this outcome was evident as early as 380 ms following face presentation (Study 1). Results were replicated with a national sample, and effects became more pronounced as the conservatism of the constituency increased (Study 2). Thus, gender categorization dynamics during the initial milliseconds after viewing a female politician’s face are predictive of her electoral success, especially in more conservative areas.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)815-824
Number of pages10
JournalSocial Psychological and Personality Science
Issue number7
StatePublished - Sep 27 2014


  • conservatism
  • face perception
  • gender
  • politics
  • social categorization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology


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