Little AC, Roberts SC, Jones BC & DeBruine LM (2012). The perception of attractiveness and trustworthiness in male faces affects hypothetical voting decisions differently in war and peace time scenarios. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 65(10): 2018-2032. doi: 10.1080/17470218.2012.677048

Facial appearance of candidates has been linked to real election outcomes. Here we extend these findings by examining the contributions of attractiveness and trustworthiness in male faces to perceived votability. We first show that attractiveness and trustworthiness are positively and independently related to thinking faces are likely to be good leaders using real faces (Rating study). We then show that computer graphic manipulations of attractiveness and trustworthiness influence choice of leader (Study 1 and 2). Finally, we show that changing context from war-time to peace-time can affect which face receives the most votes. Attractive faces were relatively more valued for war-time and trustworthy faces relatively more valued for peace-time (Study 1 and 2). This pattern suggests health and fitness are perceived to be useful attributes in war-time leaders whereas pro-social traits are perceived to be more important during peace-time. Our studies highlight the possible role of facial appearance in voting behaviour and the role of attributions of attractiveness and trust. We also show that there may be no general characteristics of faces that make them perceived as best best choice of leader; leaders may be chosen because the characteristics they possess are perceived as the best for leaders to possess in particular situations.

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