The Durk Pearson & Sandy Shaw®
Life Extension NewsTM
Volume 11 No. 1 • January 2008

Predicting the Outcome of Elections from Rapid Impressions of Candidates’ Faces

A new paper reports, shockingly, that the rapid and nonanalytical exposure to a candidate’s face can result in a long-lived impression that correlates with how people vote. It is bad enough that there is so much at stake in political elections, but at least one can hope that there is some thought involved in voting. This new study suggests otherwise.

The researchers showed participants (120 Princeton University undergraduates, who were each paid $5) faces of candidates for gubernatorial elections (if any participant recognized a candidate, that datum was not included). They were asked to make rapid, nonjudgmental decisions on which of two individuals (the winner and the runner-up) was more competent on the basis of his or her face. Predictions were as accurate after a 100-ms exposure to the faces as after 250 ms and to unlimited exposure. The researchers then compared competence judgments collected before the election of 2006 and found that they predicted 68.6% of the outcome of the gubernatorial races and 72.4% of the Senate races!

The authors conclude that “rapid, unreflective judgments of competence from faces can affect voting decisions.”


  1. Ballew and Todorov. Predicting political elections from rapid and unreflective face judgments. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 104(46):17948-53 (2007).

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