Elections: How Voters Really Think and Feel

National Press Club

highlight1.jpgAs the country geared up for the 2008 presidential election, we all speculated on would win – and why. Did it matter if the candidate was male or female, minority or majority, attractive or not – or whether the country simply wanted change?

This Science Café addressed these questions and more as Professors Eugene Borgida, PhD (University of Minnesota) and Alexander Todorov, PhD (Princeton University) brought their expertise to bear on these hot-button issues.

The Café began with Dr. Borgida providing an overview of some critical variables identified by political psychologists that influence whom we decide to vote for in electoral contexts. For example, Dr. Borgida reviewed the conditions under which self-interest vs. values play a role in political decision making. In addition, he discussed the ways in which gender, race, and experience influence voter preferences.

Do you think appearance matters to a candidate’s success? Despite the adage “don’t judge a book by its cover,” people rapidly and effortlessly form personality impressionsfrom facial appearance. Dr. Todorov showed that such impressions form within a single glance at a face. People spontaneously categorize faces on social dimensions. Applyingthis research to political elections, he showed how judgments of competence – based solely on facial appearance – predict the outcomes of both Senate and gubernatorial elections.



Eugene Borgida

Alexander Todorov