First impressions of politician faces can be effective in predicting election outcomes, based on perceived competence from candidate photographs. However, it remains unclear whether such effects arose from facial features or other non-facial information present in the photographs (e.g. hairstyles, clothes, or poses). In four pre-registered studies, participants completed two tasks in a counter-balanced order: rating competence of individually presented faces and predicting election outcome of each pair of winner and runner-up faces. We examined competence judgment and election outcome prediction on faces from male politicians depicted on original portraits (Experiment 1), or on computer-generated faces with facial features extracted from the portraits (Experiment 2). The faces were then either masculinized or feminized (Experiments 3 and 4). We found that competence ratings were significantly higher for winners than runners-up and that winners were more likely predicted to win the elections than runners-up in all but Experiment 4, where faces of the winners were feminized and faces of the runners-up were masculinized. Regardless of facial feature changes, correlations were found between competence ratings and election outcome prediction. These findings suggest that facial features are critical for evaluating competence and predicting election outcome, and that masculine features may enhance stereotypical leadership impressions.
ASJC Scopus subject areas