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Does wearing glasses hurt or help politicians in elections? Although some research shows that glasses signal unattractiveness, glasses also increase perceptions of competence. In eight studies, participants voted for politicians wearing (photoshopped) glasses or not. Wearing glasses increased politicians’ electoral success in the U.S. (Study 1), independent of their political orientation (Studies 2a and 2b). This positive effect was especially strong when intelligence was important (Study 3), and even occurred if glasses were used strategically (Study 4). However, it did not extend to India (Study 5) due to different cultural associations with glasses (Study 6). Furthermore, while intelligence mediated the effect, warmth did not (Study 7). In summary, wearing glasses can robustly boost electoral success, at least in Western cultures.
Original Article
You Can Leave Your Glasses on
Glasses Can Increase Electoral Success
Alexandra Fleischmann
, Joris Lammers
, Janka I. Stoker
, and Harry Garretsen
Social Cognition Center Cologne, University of Cologne, Köln, Germany
Faculty of Economics and Business, University of Groningen, Groningen, The Netherlands
Abstract: Does wearing glasses hurt or help politicians in elections? Although some research shows that glasses signal unattractiveness,
glasses also increase perceptions of competence. In eight studies, participants voted for politicians wearing (photoshopped) glasses or not.
Wearing glasses increased politicianselectoral success in the US (Study 1), independent of their political orientation (Studies 2a and 2b). This
positive effect was especially strong when intelligence was important (Study 3), and even occurred if glasses were used strategically (Study 4).
However, it did not extend to India (Study 5) due to different cultural associations with glasses (Study 6). Furthermore, while intelligence
mediated the effect, warmth did not (Study 7). In summary, wearing glasses can robustly boost electoral success, at least in Western cultures.
Keywords: glasses, voting, stereotypes, politicians, election
Politicians appear to shun glasses. For example, even
though presently around 61% of US citizens wear glasses,
no US president since Harry Truman wore glasses in public
(Pindell, 2015). After becoming the UK Prime Minister,
David Cameron waited a full 3months before wearing
glasses in public and felt noticeably uncomfortable doing
so (Swinford, 2013). Jeb Bush even attributed his failure
to defeat Trump in the Republican primaries to his glasses
(Jamieson, 2016). It seems politicians try to avoid wearing
glasses in public because of possible associations with
vision deficiency, old age, and weakness (Elman, 1977;
Swinford, 2013; Terry & Krantz, 1993). But are politicians
actually right in doing so? The current research aims to test
Effects of Glasses on Appearance
Politiciansappearance, in particular their facial appear-
ance, certainly influences their electoral success (Antonakis
&Dalgas,2009; Jäckle & Metz, 2015; Little, Burriss, Jones,
& Roberts, 2007; Todorov, Mandisodza, Goren, & Hall,
2005; Todorov, Olivola, Dotsch, & Mende-Siedlecki,
2015). For example, Todorov et al. (2005) found that in
the US, 72% of the Senate races and 67%oftheHouse
races could be predicted by asking people who looked more
competent. Given that glasses may signal declining health
and weakness, politicians may be right to avoid wearing
glasses in public.
Indeed, some research appears to support politi-
ciansfears. Glasses are linked with a range of negative
characteristics, such as being less likeable, less attractive,
and most importantly less dominant (Edwards, 1987;
Hasart & Hutchinson, 1993; Leder, Forster, & Gerger,
2011; Lundberg & Sheehan, 1994; Terry & Krantz, 1993;
Terry & Kroger, 1976). For example, an early study by Terry
and Krantz (1993) found that wearing glasses reduced
social forcefulness, a characteristic including dominance,
aggressiveness, and courage. Leder et al. (2011) showed
that wearing glasses, especially full-rimmed ones, reduces
Yet, in the current paper, we aim to show that wearing
glasses actually improves electoral success. Although peo-
ple have some negative associations, they also have many
positive associations with glasses in particular with learn-
ing, studying, and wisdom (Harris, 1991; Hellström &
Tekle, 1994; Merry, 2012). This positive stereotype dates
back to the Middle Ages, when monks used glasses to study
despite declining vision. Glasses have since been commonly
worn by people who perform intellectual or other highly
skilled work (Ilardi, 2007). As a result, people associate
glasses with a variety of competence-related characteristics,
such as success, dependability, and industriousness, and
most strongly intelligence (Harris, 1991; Hellström & Tekle,
1994; Jäckle & Metz, 2015; Leder et al., 2011;Manz&
Lueck, 1968; Terry & Krantz, 1993; Thornton, 1943,1944).
Based on this notion, we propose that wearing glasses im-
proves electoral success due to the robust association
between perceptions of competence and electoral success
(Ballew & Todorov, 2007; Chiao, Bowman, & Gill, 2008;
Todorov et al., 2005). Competence often seems to be the
best facial predictor of participantslikelihood to vote for
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acandidate(Jäckle&Metz,2015; Rosenberg & McCafferty,
1987; Sussman, Petkova, & Todorov, 2013; Todorov et al.,
2005; but see Praino, Stockemer, & Ratis, 2014; Verhulst,
Lodge, & Lavine, 2010, for a discussion of when and why
attractiveness might be more important). For example,
competence seems to be the best predictor for electoral
success in the previously mentioned US Senate and House
races, in the German parliament, and for Bulgarian presi-
dential candidates. In contrast, trust, likeability, attractive-
ness, and dominance do not predict electoral success as
strongly as competence (Jäckle & Metz, 2015; Sussman
et al., 2013; Todorov et al., 2005).
In summary, although earlier research suggests that
glasses may have negative effects, we propose that because
glasses clearly boost perceived competence, wearing
glasses increases politicianselectoral success. We test this
in eight studies using an experimental approach, in which
we use photoshopped images of actual politicians (see
Figure 1) to show participants the exact same politician
but with or without glasses. This experimental approach is
particularly important because correlational findings from
local elections in Denmark show that wearing glasses is
related to reduced electoral success (Laustsen, 2014). How-
ever, the correlational nature of that study precludes causal
inferences. Furthermore, Laustsen found this effect after
controlling for differences in perceived competence between
candidates, with glasses being related to increased compe-
tence. This is problematic because we predict that glasses
increase electoral success exactly for this reason by
increasing perceived competence.
Hypothesis 1(H1): Glasses increase electoral success.
Possible Moderators and Mediators
of the Glasses Effect
Next, we predict that the positive effect of wearing glasses
is moderated by a range of personal and situational factors.
Political Orientation
First, participantsor politicianspolitical orientation may
play a role. In general, Republicans prefer conservative-
looking politicians (Olivola, Sussman, Tsetsos, Kang, &
Todorov, 2012; Olivola, Tingley, & Todorov, 2018), mean-
ing politicians who look dominant (Laustsen & Petersen,
2015,2016). As glasses tend to reduce dominance (Terry
&Krantz,1993), liberal participants may show a stronger
and conservative participants a weaker glasses effect. Fur-
thermore, attractiveness is generally important for electoral
success (Berggren, Jordahl, & Poutvaara, 2010;Lutz,2010;
Praino et al., 2014; Rosar, Klein, & Beckers, 2008), but con-
servative politicians profit especially from it (Berggren,
Jordahl, & Poutvaara, 2017). As glasses also reduce attrac-
tiveness (Leder et al., 2011; Lundberg & Sheehan, 1994),
the positive effect of glasses may be stronger for liberal
politicians and weaker for conservative politicians. Then,
it is possible that the glasses effect would be stronger for
politicians of the same political orientation as the partici-
pants than for politicians from another party. Therefore,
we expect the glasses effect to be stronger for liberal partic-
ipants and for liberal politicians.
Hypothesis 2a(H2a): The positive effect of glasses is
stronger for liberal participants and liberal politicians
than for conservative participants and politicians.
Finally, because the effect of party affiliation already pre-
dicts electoral decisions strongly in cross-party elections
(Campbell, Converse, Miller, & Stokes, 1960), it is possible
that the party affiliation of a politician overrides the glasses
effect for partisans.
Hypothesis 2b(H2b): Do glasses increase electoral
success in cross-party elections?
Political Situation
Next, the effect of glasses may depend on the traits
required by a specific political situation. Based on evolution-
ary psychology, human beings look for effective leadership
in order to be able to survive specific threats to their group
(Spisak, Nicholson, & van Vugt, 2011; van Vugt, Johnson,
Kaiser, & OGorman, 2008; van Vugt, 2006,2014). For
example, people prefer male presidential candidates, asso-
ciated with agentic skills, when there is a threat of interna-
tional conflict, have no preference in the absence of conflict
(Falk & Kenski, 2006), and even prefer female candidates
when the political situation demands a communal candi-
date to overcome internal divisions (Lammers, Gordijn, &
Figure 1. Example of actual stimuli pairs used in studies with
American participants. Included with the kind agreement of
Mrs. Agneta Gille (MP of Swedish Parliament for the Social Demo-
crats). These are the only stimuli for which we got the permission to
include them in print, but we are happy to share stimuli for research
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Otten, 2009). Similarly, people prefer masculine, strong,
and dominant leaders in times of conflict, and feminine,
intelligent, and cooperative leaders in times of peace
(Laustsen & Petersen, 2015,2017;Littleetal.,2007; Spisak,
Blaker, Lefevre, Moore, & Krebbers, 2014; Spisak, Dekker,
Krüger, & van Vugt, 2012; Spisak, Homan, Grabo, & van
Vugt, 2012; Spisak et al., 2011).
Based on these findings, we propose that the positive
effect of glasses differs with the characteristics needed in
the current political situation. Although glasses are associ-
ated with intelligence, they are also associated with reduced
perceptions of dominance (Elman, 1977; Leder et al., 2011;
Terry & Krantz, 1993). Therefore, we expect that glasses
have a positive effect in political situations that demand
intelligence, but do not have this effect if the political situ-
ation makes dominance a more valuable trait. We test this
hypothesis in Study 3.
Hypothesis 3(H3): The positive effect of glasses on
electoral success is stronger when the political situa-
tion calls for intelligent leaders than when it calls for
dominant leaders.
Strategic Use of Glasses
Next, we test whether the positive effect of glasses disap-
pears when voters are aware that politicians deliberately
use glasses to win votes. Trustworthiness and honesty are
important predictors of electoral success (Hetherington,
1998; Little, Roberts, Jones, & Debruine, 2012;McCurley
&Mondak,1995;Shephard&Johns,2008; Wojciszke &
Klusek, 1996). Using glasses merely to increase electoral
success may be seen as deceptive and thus activate the
common stereotype that politicians are dishonest (Blair,
2002; Koch, Imhoff, Dotsch, Unkelbach, & Alves, 2016).
In addition, people tend to control for stereotypes if they
are aware of their influence (Devine, 1989; Sczesny &
Kühnen, 2004;Wegner&Bargh,1998). If voters realize
that a politician only wears glasses to look more intelligent,
then they may avoid relying on that positive stereotype
(Kunda & Sinclair, 1999). In sum, votersawareness of
the strategic use of glasses may block the positive effect
on electoral success. We test this idea in Study 4.
Hypothesis 4(H4): Glasses fail to increase electoral
success if voters are aware of their strategic use.
Cross-Cultural Differences
Next, we examine the potential moderating effect of cross-
cultural differences. Until now, the role of facial appearance
in electoral success has been mostly studied with Western
populations (Ballew & Todorov, 2007; Little et al., 2007;
Poutvaara, Jordahl, & Berggren, 2009; Sussman et al.,
2013; Todorov et al., 2005). No research has tested
whether the effect of glasses (e.g., on voting) generalizes
across cultures. One reason why the effect of glasses may
differ more across cultures than the general effect of facial
appearance is that the cultural stereotypes of glasses may
differ much more between cultures. Although in rich Wes-
tern countries a majority of adults wears glasses, this is
much less common in less wealthy countries where people
only wear glasses for very serious vision problems. For
example, while over 60% of US Americans wear glasses,
only 7% of Indians do so (Center for Disease Control and
Prevention, 2013; Karnani, Garrette, Kassalow, & Lee,
2010). Consequently, in India and other less wealthy coun-
tries, wearing glasses may be less strongly associated with
intelligence but more with vision deficiency and weakness
(Elman, 1977;Swinford,2013; Terry & Krantz, 1993).
Therefore, if an Indian politician wears glasses, this may
more easily be perceived as a sign of weakness, rather than
of competence, and thus not produce the same positive
effects as in the West. We test this in Study 5.
Hypothesis 5(H5): The positive effect of glasses on
electoral success is limited to Western countries like
the US and does not show in less wealthy countries
like India.
Mediation by Intelligence and Warmth
Finally, we aim to demonstrate the process underlying the
relation between glasses and electoral success. We predict
that the positive effect of glasses is driven by glasses mak-
ing candidates look more intelligent (Leder et al., 2011;
Terry & Krantz, 1993), and perceived intelligence increas-
ing electoral success (e.g., Little et al., 2012;Shephard&
Johns, 2008; Todorov et al., 2005). We test this prediction
in Study 6and Study 7, while also focusing on the hypoth-
esized difference between Americans and Indians in the
cultural association of glasses with intelligence in Study 6
(Hypothesis 5).
Hypothesis 6(H6): Americans associate glasses with
intelligence, whereas Indians do not. Therefore,
wearing glasses increases electoral success because
it increases perceived intelligence in the US, but in
India, it does not.
Another possible mediator could be warmth. Some research
finds that glasses increase facets of warmth such as honesty
and helpfulness (Hellström & Tekle, 1994; Thornton, 1943,
1944), while other research finds that it reduces likeability
(Jäckle & Metz, 2015; Leder et al., 2011). In turn, warmth is
next to intelligence an important predictor for electoral
success (Poutvaara et al., 2009; Rosenberg, Kahn, Tran, &
Le, 1991;Shephard&Johns,2008). If glasses lead to
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increased warmth, warmth could also explain why glasses
lead to higher electoral success. We test this prediction in
Study 7.
Hypothesis 7(H7): Glasses lead to increased warmth,
so warmth explains electoral success for politicians
with glasses additionally to intelligence.
Overview of Studies
In summary, eight studies test how wearing glasses affects
electoral success. Study 1tests our main prediction that
politicians who wear glasses have a higher electoral suc-
cess. Studies 2aand2b look at the influence of political ori-
entation of participants and politicians. Study 3examines
the impact of political demands. Study 4examines the
effect of votersawareness of politiciansstrategic uses of
glasses. Study 5explores cross-cultural moderation by test-
ing whether the effect generalizes to India. Study 6explains
the underlying process by testing whether stereotypical
associations between glasses and intelligence mediate the
effect, and whether this is an explanation for the cross-cul-
tural differences tested in Study 5. Finally, Study 7tests
warmth as another potential mechanism for the glasses
Methodological Notes
Across these studies, participants were recruited on Ama-
zons Mechanical Turk (MTurk). Participants on MTurk
are attentive to instructions and more representative of
the US population than many convenience samples.
Research using MTurk leads to similar results as nationally
representative samples (Berinsky, Huber, & Lenz, 2012;
Hauser & Schwarz, 2015; Mullinix, Leeper, Druckman, &
Freese, 2016). To ensure high data quality, only MTurkers
with an approval rate of over 90% participated, and only in
one of these studies. Participants were compensated
according to the length of each study. All studies were con-
ducted using SoSci Survey (Leiner, 2015).
First, we developed one stimulus set for our studies with
American samples and one for our studies with Indian sam-
ples. Each stimulus set consisted of eight original pictures of
politicians and eight pictures photoshopped with glasses
(see Electronic Supplementary Material, ESM 1,formore
information on stimulus development). Few participants
overall were suspicious of the glasses, and suspicion did
not change results (see ESM 1). Throughout these studies,
we report how we set sample size. In some of these studies,
we accidentally collected more participants than planned,
as occurs often in online research. All participants who fin-
ished a study were included in the analyses. We did not
exclude any data, and we report all measures and manipu-
lations. We report all studies conducted as part of this
research project.
Data and analyses can be found at
Study 1: Glasses Increase Electoral
Study 1tests whether wearing glasses increases politicians
electoral success (Hypothesis 1).
Two hundred three American MTurkers (75 women, 128
men, M
=36 years) participated. Sample size was set a
priori to 200, which gave us a power of .80 (Cohen,
1992) to detect a small effect of d=0.20 (Faul, Erdfelder,
Lang, & Buchner, 2007).
Procedure and Materials
Participants were shown 16 pairs of same-sex politicians in
a random order in a mock election paradigm (e.g., Lam-
mers et al., 2009; Todorov et al., 2005), and indicated
who they would vote for. Half of the pairs were critical tri-
als, consisting of one politician with and one politician with-
out glasses (see ESM 1for stimulus development). To avoid
that participants would guess the aim of the study, the
remaining half of the pairs were filler trials, consisting only
of original, unaltered pictures of politicians. These pic-
tures were also politicians from the pretest, but those that
were not chosen for our target stimuli. Participants always
only saw each politician once, either with or without
glasses. Politicians were identified simply with the letter A
or B.
To measure electoral success, participants indicated which
politician they would vote for, on a 7-point scale from 1=
definitely politician A to 7=definitely politician B. We also
measured demographics, including whether participants
Two additional studies are omitted from the paper given their conceptual and theoretical overlap with the reported studies. Study 1b (N= 200)
replicated the positive effect of glasses of Study 1, t(199) = 5.16, p< .001, but was otherwise uninteresting because it failed to show a
hypothesized moderation by dispositional differences. Study 4b (N= 202) only administered the wear glasses condition of Study 4. Consistent
with the Study 4, participants indicated that wearing glasses would improve election success, t(201) = 8.03, p< .001. Given that Study 4 provides
a more complete picture, we omit Study 4b. Both studies are in ESM 1.
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wore glasses themselves, exploratory variables (see ESM 1),
and participantssuspicion of glasses (see ESM 1).
Data and analyses for all studies can be found at https:// We recoded all ratings so that higher values
indicated a preference for politicians with glasses and lower
values a preference for politicians without. In line with
Hypothesis 1,aone-samplet-test indicated that participants
preferred politicians with glasses over those without, t(202)
=4.16,p<.001,d=0.29,M=4.20,SD =0.69,CI
0.43]. For additional analyses with participantsor politi-
cianscharacteristics, see ESM 1.
Study 1provided first evidence for Hypothesis 1that wear-
ing glasses improves electoral success. In a mock election
paradigm, participants were more likely to vote for politi-
cians when these politicians wore glasses than when they
did not. Because we used exactly the same pictures of each
politician, only changing whether they wore glasses or not
(and counterbalanced between participants), we can rule
out that this effect was due to any confounds with the
Studies 2a and 2b: Political
Study 2a tests whether the effect of wearing glasses
depends on the political orientation of participants or of
the politicians wearing glasses. The preregistration for this
study can be found at
Study 2b tests whether glasses have a positive effect for par-
tisans in cross-party elections. The preregistration can be
found at
Participants and Design
In Study 2a, 200 American MTurkers (80 women, 118 men,
2other, M
=34) participated. The design was a 2(polit-
ical orientation of politician: Democrat vs. Republican)
within-subjects design. As in Study 1, sample size was set
to 200 to obtain 80% power for a small effect of d=
0.20.InStudy2b, 351 American MTurkers (159 women,
192 men, M
=38) participated. The design was a 2(polit-
ical orientation of politician with glasses: own vs. other
party) within-subjects design. Based on a small effect size
of d=0.20 and 90% power, indicating a sample size of
265, and to account for some analyses only with partisans,
we set sample size to 350.
Procedure and Materials
We used the same procedure as in Study 1.InStudy2a, par-
ticipants were told that the first eight pairs of politicians
were Democrats and the second eight pairs were Republi-
cans, or vice versa. Additionally, we asked participants
two questions about glasses and fashion (see ESM 1). In
Study 2b, politicians in the filler trials were always from
the same party, and politicians in the critical trials were
always a Republican running against a Democrat. Addition-
ally, politicians had random names and appropriate ages
(see ESM 1).
Study 2a
As expected, participants were more likely to vote for the
politician with glasses than for the politician without,
t(199)=4.15,p<.001,d=0.30,M=4.20,SD =0.67,
[0.15,0.43]. In line with Hypothesis 2a, the more
the participants identified as liberal, the more they showed
the glasses effect, r(198)=.208,p=.003,CI
0.337]. However, contrary to Hypothesis 2a, this was the
case regardless of whether the politician was described
as Democrat or Republican, t(199)=0.09,p=.929,d=
[0.13,0.15]. Then, we tested
whether participants showed a stronger glasses effect for
their own party. In this analysis, we only included partici-
pants who were identified as either Democrats or Republi-
can. Again, liberals showed a stronger glasses effect than
conservatives, F(1,151)=7.52,p=.007,η
[.01,.11], while the effect did not differ by politicianspolit-
ical orientation, F(1,151)=0.07,p=.790,η
[0.00,0.02], or the interaction between the two, F(1,151)
[0.00,0.03]. For effects
of fashion, see ESM 1.
Study 2b
With regard to Hypothesis 2b, participants were more likely
to vote for the politician with glasses even in cross-party
elections, t(350)=3.58,p<.001,d=0.19,M=4.11,SD
[0.85,0.30]. Only including partisans, partic-
ipants strongly voted for politicians from their own party,
t(254)=12.65,p<.001,d=0.79,M=4.98,SD =1.24,
[0.65,0.93]. However, they were less likely to do so
when the politician from the other party was wearing
glasses (M=4.88,SD =1.49)thanwhenthepoliticianfrom
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their own party was wearing glasses (M=5.09,SD =1.24), t
(254)=2.83,p=.005,d=0.18,M=0.21,SD =1.19,CI
Studies 2aand2b replicate the basic finding of glasses lead-
ing to better electoral success. As expected in Hypothesis
2a, this effect is stronger the more liberal participants are.
Interestingly, the same is not true for the politicianspolit-
ical orientation: No matter whether a politician was pre-
sented as Republican or Democrat, participants preferred
politicians with glasses. Additionally, glasses increased elec-
toral success for politicians with the same or a different
political orientation, and they also increased electoral suc-
cess in cross-party elections. Glasses therefore seem to
have a positive effect across the political spectrum of
Study 3: Political Demands
Study 3tests whether the effect of wearing glasses depends
on situational political demands, specifically on whether
intelligence or dominance is desirable.
Participants and Design
Two hundred American MTurkers (85 women, 115 men,
=32) participated. Participants were randomly
assigned to one of two between-participant conditions
(peace vs. war). Expecting the same effect as in Study 1,
we calculated sample size a priori with G*Power (Faul
et al., 2007) to obtain a power of .80. We rounded the rec-
ommended sample size (192)uptoatargetN=200.
Procedure and Material
WeusedthesameprocedureasinStudy1, except for the
addition of the political demands manipulation. Participants
first learned about the most important problem facing the
country, either complex legislative problems (peace condi-
tion), or an attack from a neighboring country (war condi-
tion). In the former condition, the country needed a
president who could deliberate on the problem, in the lat-
ter, a president who could act fast.
In addition to the measures from Study 1, participants indi-
cated what the most important problem of the country was
as an attention check (see ESM 1for details). They also
stated what they searched for in a politician and filled out
exploratory variables (see ESM 1).
Eighty-seven percent of participants correctly identified the
problem in the country before the vote. Participants in the
peace condition also searched more for a politician who
could deliberate well, rather than act fast, compared to par-
ticipants in the war condition (see ESM 1for analyses).
In support of Hypothesis 3,wefoundthatparticipants
electoral decisions differed by experimental condition,
[0.02,0.58]. In the
peace condition (n=96), participants preferred the politi-
cians with glasses over politicians without glasses, t(95)=
2.49,p=.015,d=0.25,M=4.20,SD =0.78,CI
0.46]. In the war condition (n=104), participants had an
equal preference for leaders with and without glasses,
t(103)=0.43,p=.670,d=0.04,M=3.97,SD =0.78,
In the peace condition, Study 3replicated the finding from
Studies 1and 2that glasses increase electoral success. As
predicted by Hypothesis 3,Study3also showed that this
positive effect only occurs in the political situation that asks
for intelligence in a leader, but not if the country is threat-
ened by an armed conflict (stereotypically requiring domi-
nance instead). Nonetheless, it is important to note
that even if participants believed the country to be threat-
ened by war, wearing glasses did not produce a negative
Study 4: Strategic Use
Study 4investigated whether the effect of glasses is under-
mined if participants are aware that glasses are used delib-
erately to improve electoral results (Hypothesis 4).
Participants and Design
Two hundred one American MTurkers (77 women, 124
men, M
=34) participated. Participants were randomly
assigned to one of two conditions (wear glasses vs. remove
glasses). Based on the calculations in Study 3,samplesize
was set to 200 apriori.
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Material and Procedure
In the wear glasses condition, participants were shown one
random unaltered picture of a politician (from the Ameri-
can stimulus set). They were told that the politician was
running for office but was not doing so well. Therefore,
one advisor proposed that the politician should wear
glasses. Then, participants were also shown the altered pic-
ture of the same politician. In the remove glasses condition,
participants instead saw one of the photoshopped pictures
of the politician with glasses. They were told the same
story, but the advisor instead proposed to remove the
glasses. Then, they also saw the original picture of the
politician without glasses.
To measure overall success of the candidate, participants
indicated how likely they and how likely others would vote
for the candidate, both between 1=less likely and 7=more
likely, and how wearing/removing glasses would change the
politicians election results, between 1=definitely hurt and
7=definitely help. These three questions were averaged
(wear glasses condition: Cronbachsα=.90,remove
glasses condition: Cronbachsα=.79). For exploratory pur-
poses, participants also indicated on two separate items
whether glasses would help or hurt if the politician was run-
ning for the Democratic Party, both between 1=definitely
hurt and 7=definitely help. We did not ask for suspicion
in this study because we openly showed both the pictures
with and without glasses.
We recoded votes so that in both conditions, higher num-
bers indicated that participants preferred the politician to
wear glasses (either keep wearing their glasses or start
wearing them). Reactions to the politician differed by
advice given, t(199)=2.81,p=.005,d=0.40,CI
0.68]. Contrary to Hypothesis 4, for the wear glasses con-
dition (n=101), participants preferred the politicians to
wear glasses, t(100)=3.74,p<.001,d=0.37,M=4.34,
SD =0.91,CI
[0.17,0.57]. For the remove glasses condi-
tion (n=100), participants did not have a preference for
the politicians to either keep or remove the glasses, t(99)
=0.32,p=.753,d=0.03,M=3.97,SD =0.95,CI
[0.16,0.23]. This finding suggests that participants
believe that adopting glasses can help a politician, while
removing them does not, because they thought both they
themselves and others would be more likely to vote for a
politician with glasses. For additional analyses with partici-
pantsdemographics and politicianspolitical orientation,
see ESM 1.
Study 4failed to find support for Hypothesis 4.Weagain
found a positive impact of glasses on electoral success, even
when we directly told participants of the strategic use of
glasses for the purpose of winning an election. Even though
participants were aware of the impression management,
they indicated that they and others would be more likely
to vote for the politician with glasses. In contrast to that,
removing glasses for strategic reasons did not lead to a pos-
itive effect, ruling out that participants were merely going
along with any strategy an advisor proposed. All in all, these
results show that votersawareness that a politician wears
glasses for strategic impression management goals does
not seem to lead to any negative effects.
Study 5: Glasses in India
Our first four studies focused on American samples. To test
for cultural differences, Study 5tests whether the effect
generalizes to a non-Western setting. As stated in Hypoth-
esis 5, we expected the effect to be limited to the US and
not shown in India.
Two hundred three Indian MTurkers (74 women, 129 men,
=33 years) participated. Sample size was set a priori at
200 to obtain a power of .80 (Cohen, 1992)todetecta
small effect of d=0.20 (Faul et al., 2007).
Procedure and Material
The procedure closely followed that of Study 1. Participants
were shown eight pairs of same-sex Indian politicians of
similar baseline popularity, in random order. The four crit-
ical trials featured a politician with and one without glasses.
Then, participants stated for whom they would vote, on a 7-
point scale from 1=definitely politician A to 7=definitely
politician B. After that, participants answered demographic
questions, whether they wore glasses themselves and
whether they found anything suspicious.
Participantsresponses again were recoded so that higher
values indicated a preference for politicians with glasses.
In line with Hypothesis 5and consistent with the idea that
wearing glasses may even be seen as a sign of weakness,
Indians marginally preferred politicians without glasses,
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t(202)=1.94,p=.054,d=0.14,M=3.84,SD =1.20,CI
[0.27,0.002]. See ESM 1for analyses with participants
Consistent with our reasoning for Hypothesis 5, the positive
effect of glasses did not replicate in India. In fact, if any-
thing, glasses led to marginally lower electoral success. As
we described, glasses are rare in India (only 7% wear them)
and are typically worn out of dire medical needs. Therefore,
Indians may not associate glasses with intelligence as much
as Americans do.
Another possibility may be that Indians value different
characteristics in politicians. For example, Rule et al.
(2010) showed that dominance predicts electoral success
in the US and warmth does not, but the opposite is true
for Japan. Therefore, we directly compared ratings of intel-
ligence for politicians with glasses and their predictive
power for electoral success in India and the US in Study 6.
Study 6: Intelligence as Mediator
Study 6replicated the finding of Study 5and directly com-
pared an Indian sample and an American sample in one
study. It also tested whether the unequal glasses effect in
India and America is due to different associations of glasses
with intelligence (Hypothesis 6). As an alternative explana-
tion, it examined whether people in the US and India value
intelligence differently.
Four hundred seven participants were recruited on MTurk.
We targeted our sample so that we obtained an equal num-
ber of Indians (N
=206;76 women, 130 men; M
years) and Americans (N
=201;80 women, 120 men,
1other; M
=33 years). We set sample size a priori at 200
per sample so that again we would be able to detect a small
effect of d=.20 in each sample.
Procedure and Material
Participants were shown a pair of same-sex politicians of
similar baseline popularity from the respective stimulus
set. Participants indicated their associations of intelligence
for the two candidates, judging who was more intelligent,
more rational, and more intellectual (Terry & Krantz,
1993), between 1=definitely politician A and 7=definitely
politician B, Cronbachsα=.77, and rated exploratory vari-
ables (see ESM 1). As in previous studies, all ratings were
recoded so that higher ratings indicated that the politician
with glasses was considered to be more intelligent. Next,
we used the same measure of electoral success as in previ-
ous studies. After that, participants provided demographics.
Given that measures of suspicion did not moderate any of
the previous results, we did not measure suspicion.
We first discuss the influence of glasses on electoral success
and intelligence in both India and the US. Then, we test
whether the difference in electoral success is mediated by
differences in intelligence ratings.
Election Results
Supporting Hypothesis 5, Indians and Americans differed in
their preference for politicians with glasses, t(358)=2.43,
[0.05,0.44]. Replicating the results
of Studies 14, Americans (n=201) preferred politicians
with glasses over those without glasses, t(200)=3.69,p<
.001,d=0.26,M=4.41,SD =1.57,CI
[0.12,0.40]. Con-
sistent with Hypothesis 5, Indians (n=206)againdidnot
share this preference, t(205)=0.44,p=.657,d=0.03,
M=3.93,SD =2.35,CI
[0.17,0.11], although we did
not find the marginally significant reversal we found in
Study 5.
In support of Hypothesis 6, Indians and Americans differed
in their associations between glasses and intelligence, t
(388)=4.12 (see Footnote 2), p<.001,d=.41,CI
[0.21,0.60]. While Americans rated politicians with glasses
as more intelligent than politicians without, t(200)=6.95,p
<.001,d=0.49,M=4.59,SD =1.20,CI
Indians did not, t(205)=0.28,p=.784,d=0.02,M=
4.03,SD =1.52,CI
To test whether intelligence ratings explained the differ-
ence in electoral success between countries (Hypothesis
6), we tested for mediation with the Process macro (Hayes,
2013,10,000 bootstrapping resamples). The full mediation
modelcanbefoundinFigure2. Mirroring the previous
analyses, participantscountry predicted electoral success
for politicians with glasses compared to politicians without,
b=0.481,SE =0.199,p=.016,CI
showing that Americans were more likely to vote for politi-
cians with glasses than Indians. Similarly, participants
Corrected for variance heterogeneity.
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country predicted intelligence ratings of politicians with
glasses compared to politicians without, b=0.558,SE =
[0.825,0.291], as Americans found
politicians with glasses compared to those without more
intelligent than did Indians. When both country and intelli-
gence ratings were used to predict electoral success, intelli-
gence ratings predicted electoral success, b=0.957,SE =
[0.849,1.065], but country did not,
b=0.053,SE =0.154,p=.730,CI
Therefore,thedataisinlinewithHypothesis6: The differ-
ent electoral preferences of Indians and US Americans for
politicians with glasses can be explained through their dif-
ferent intelligence ratings for politicians with glasses, indi-
rect effect ab =0.534,SE =0.134,CI
0.272]. For additional analyses on how Indians and Amer-
icans value intelligence in a candidate, see ESM 1.
The current results replicate and integrate the findings of
Studies 15, by showing that although wearing glasses pro-
duces a positive effect on political candidateselectoral suc-
cess in the US, this is not the case for political candidates in
India. Furthermore, these results show that this is due to a
difference in the stereotype of glasses. Where Americans
strongly associate glasses with intelligence, Indians do not.
Study 7 Intelligence and Warmth
as Mediators
Study 7was used to replicate the effect that glasses make
politicians look more intelligent in the US and therefore
lead to higher electoral success. More importantly, it tested
whether glasses make politicians look warmer in the US as
another explaining mechanism.
The preregistration for this study can be found at https://
Two hundred and one American MTurkers participated (84
women, 116 men, M
=36). Sample size was set to 200 to
obtain 80% power for a small effect of d=.20.
Procedure and Materials
Procedure and materials were very similar to Study 6for
the American MTurkers. The only difference was that
instead of dominance, we measured warmth. To measure
warmth, participants answered which of the two politicians
was more compassionate, friendly, and honest (Terry &
Krantz, 1993), on a 7-point Likert scale between 1=defi-
nitely politician A and 7=definitely politician B,Cronbachs
α=.80. Again, we did not measure suspicion due to absent
effects of suspicion in the previous studies.
Replicating previous studies, participants marginally pre-
ferred politicians with glasses, t(200)=1.93,p=.055,d=
0.14,M=4.22,SD =1.61,CI
[0.003,0.27], and per-
ceived them as more intelligent, t(200)=6.25,p<.001,
d=0.44,M=4.52,SD =1.18,CI
[0.30,0.59]. However,
they did not perceive politicians with glasses to be warmer
than politicians without, t(200)=0.06,p=.956,d<0.01,
M=4.00,SD =1.28,CI
[0.14,0.13]. Even though
warmth did not differ for politicians with and without
glasses, both warmth of a politician, b=0.558,SE =
[0.432,0.684], and intelligence of
a politician, b=0.621,SE =0.070,p<.001,CI
0.759], predicted electoral success.
Study 7replicates the effect of glasses on perceived intelli-
gence. Contrary to Hypothesis 7, we find no effect of
glasses on perceived warmth. This is in line with the mixed
effects found by previous research, finding glasses to be
related to both increased and decreased warmth (Hellström
&Tekle,1994; Jäckle & Metz, 2015; Leder et al., 2011;
Thornton, 1943,1944).Whilebothintelligenceandwarmth
predict electoral success quite well, the missing influence of
glasses on perceived warmth indicates that intelligence is
responsible for the electoral success of politicians with
glasses, while warmth is not.
To precisely estimate the glasses effect, we conducted a
meta-analysis for our US and Indian samples (see ESM 1
for inclusion of studies). Using R (R Core Team, 2017),
Figure 2. Mediation model for Study 6. Country of participants
predicts intelligence ratings of politicians with glasses, which predicts
electing politicians with glasses. *p< .05; ***p< .001.
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we computed effect sizes and standard errors with BootES
(Kirby & Gerlanc, 2013) and then computed a random-
effects meta-analysis with metafor (Viechtbauer, 2010).
Consistent with the studies reported above, for the US sam-
ple, we found a clear effect of glasses, d=0.25,SE =0.03,
[0.19,0.31]. In contrast, for the Indian sam-
ple, there was no positive effect of glasses, d=0.08,SE =
[0.19,0.02]. Most importantly, coun-
try moderated the glasses effect, b=0.336,SE =0.064,
[0.462,0.211]. Therefore, glasses
increased electoral success in the US, but not in India.
General Discussion
While politicians often believe that glasses can hurt their
electoral success, we show in eight experiments that glasses
actually increase electoral success. In Study 1(basic para-
digm), participants in mock elections voted for politicians
without glasses or with photoshopped glasses. We found
that participants clearly preferred candidates with glasses.
The positive effect of glasses was particularly strong for lib-
eral participants (Study 2a) but also occurred in cross-
party elections (Study 2b) and when intelligent politicians
were needed (Study 3). Furthermore, against our prediction,
the positive effect of glasses held even for the strategic use
of glasses (Study 4). Cross-culturally, the positive effect of
glasses observed in the US did not extend to India, because
people in India do not share Americansstereotype to asso-
ciate glasses with intelligence (Studies 5and 6). Finally,
while glasses seem to increase perceptions of intelligence,
which lead to higher electoral success, perceptions of
warmth remain unchanged by glasses (Study 7).
The fact that people preferred candidates with glasses
even when these glasses were worn strategically (Study 4)
is surprising, given that people usually control for their
stereotypes when they are aware of them. A strategic use
of glasses should rather activate the stereotype of a dishon-
est politician (Devine, 1989;Kunda&Sinclair,1999). Pos-
sibly, voters know that in the US, presidential candidates
spend millions of dollars and employ hundreds of staff
members to find the best way to improve their self-presen-
tation (Gilens, 2012; Morton & Cameron, 1992; Stratmann,
2005). In that light, a small amount spent on glasses seems
trivial and may not lead to such strong reactions. Future
research may seek to test this further.
Limitations and Strengths
One limitation of our work is that participants were not
offered any substantive information about the candidates
and did not have any reason to assume that their decision
would influence their lives. In real elections, voters have
more access to substantive information (political programs)
and may be more motivated to process these. By only offer-
ing peripheral cues, our design may have favored peripheral
over central processing (Chaiken, 1980; Petty & Cacioppo,
1986; Thompson, Roman, Moskowitz, Chaiken, & Bargh,
1994) and increased the effect. At the same time, consider-
able political scientific literature argues that many real-life
political decisions, including elections, are characterized
by strong peripheral processing (Lupia, 1994; Popkin,
1991). Furthermore, peripheral cues may have an even
stronger impact when people have other information to
attribute their decision to (Yzerbyt, Schadron, Leyens, &
Rocher, 1994). Finally, while cues like party affiliation or
policy beliefs likely play a stronger role than glasses, glasses
are in contrast to these other factors easily changeable.
Another limitation concerns our participants and stimuli.
While MTurkers are more representative of the US popula-
tion than convenience samples, they are still somewhat
more liberal than a representative sample (Berinsky et al.,
2012). Previous research has shown that conservatives
value facial dominance more than liberals (Laustsen &
Petersen, 2015,2016). We also found that liberal partici-
pants showed a stronger effect of glasses in Study 1(see
ESM 1) and tested this in Study 2a. Therefore, it is possible
that very conservative voters would not show a glasses
effect, as they value dominance more in their decision.
Similar arguments can be made for the used glasses and
stimuli. We chose contemporary glasses, which may be bet-
ter in conveying intelligence than old-fashioned glasses,
which perhaps only convey reduced dominance and
decreased health. Additionally, some glasses might convey
warmth while others do not, which would explain inconsis-
tent findings in previous research on the relationship of
glasses and warmth. In this case, warmth might additionally
mediate the effect of glasses on electoral success, leading to
a stronger effect. Pending future research, we assume that
most glasses that are relatively neutral in color and shape
are associated with intelligence, so that the effect of glasses
should be positive. Similarly, we chose politicians that
already looked likeable and trustworthy. For sinister-look-
ing politicians or politicians with known negative character-
istics, glasses might hurt, as competence is only seen as
positive if it is coupled with morality (Landy, Piazza, &
Goodwin, 2016). It is likely that people are more afraid of
competent evil than incompetent evil.
Theoretical Implications
Our findings can only partly be explained by an evolution-
ary psychological view on leadership selection. From a
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strong evolutionary standpoint, health and attractiveness
should be preferred in leaders in all situations (Spisak
et al., 2014), and they should be signaled by unchangeable
biological factors such as a persons height or their faces
width-to-height ratio (Poutvaara, 2014;Spisaketal.,2011;
van Vugt et al., 2008). If glasses signal anything, it should
be weakness and bad health, leading to less leadership
potential regardless of culture. In contrast to that, our
results indicate that glasses positively influence the percep-
tion of leaders in some countries, depending on the associ-
ated stereotypes. This is in line with a moderate perspective
that assumes that people use facial information to detect
desirable traits depending on the situation (Oosterhof &
Todorov, 2008;Spisaketal.,2014), as leadership emerged
as an adaptive strategy to solve important problems faced
by the group (Spisak et al., 2011;vanVugt,2006; van Vugt
&Ronay,2013). Accordingly, we find that wearing glasses
increases electoral success when situational demands lead
people to look for intelligent leaders, and only in countries
where glasses are considered to be a reliable signal for
Another important theoretical implication concerns the
cross-cultural differences we tested, as previous cross-cul-
tural research on facial appearance shows mixed results.
On the one hand, Americansand Indiansratings of politi-
cianscompetence predicted Mexican and Brazilian elec-
tion outcomes (Lawson, Lenz, Baker, & Myers, 2010). On
the other hand, Americansand Japanesesratingsofdom-
inance only predicted election results in the US, while their
ratings of warmth only predicted election results in Japan.
Additionally, explicit ratings of electoral success were only
predictive within country (Rule et al., 2010). Even though
both links in our mediation model are well established,
we show that our findings only apply to the US (and, tenta-
tively, to Western cultures where glasses are common) and
find that the effects of glasses on elections do not general-
ize to India (or, tentatively, to Eastern cultures, if glasses
are less common). Furthermore, this difference seems to
be due to factors that are quite susceptible to cultural influ-
ences (stereotypes of glasses, see, e.g., Cuddy et al., 2009,
for cultural differences in stereotype content), while the
basic mechanism of electing competent-looking politicians
does not seem to differ.
Practical Implications
We believe that our findings also have important practical
implications. Politicians with competent faces seem to
enjoy better electoral success than their less competent-
looking colleagues. Although that finding has important
theoretical implications, the applied, practical implications
for politicians are limited. First, it is unclear what facial fea-
looked at how general impressions predict votes (Atkinson,
Enos, & Hill, 2009; Ballew & Todorov, 2007; Chiao et al.,
2008; Poutvaara et al., 2009; Shephard & Johns, 2008;
Todorov et al., 2005). More importantly, in those few cases
when specific features were examined, these features were
mostly unchangeable, such as the shape of politiciansfaces
or eyes (Rosenberg et al., 1991; Zebrowitz & Montepare,
2005). In contrast, we focused on an easily changeable fea-
ture glasses that politicians can change to their advan-
tage by simply making a purchase!
Our results suggest that wearing glasses does not harm
politicians as many appear to think, but instead seems to
offer politicians an advantage over their competitors (at
least in Western cultures) without any real drawbacks. Even
though we found that the positive effect of glasses was
moderated by a number of factors, it did not reverse in
any of these cases. For example, Study 2bshowedthat
glasses had the same positive effect in cross-party elections.
Although Study 3showed that glasses do not have a positive
effect when a country is threatened by conflict (suggesting
the need for dominance over intelligence), glasses also did
not have a negative effect even then. Additionally, Study 4
showed that votersawareness of self-presentation inten-
tions behind wearing glasses does not undermine the posi-
tive effects of wearing glasses.
Although the glasses manipulation produced small
effects across studies, such small effects could nonetheless
make a difference, in particular in a plurality or first-past-
the-post system, such as in the US, Canada, or Great Bri-
tain. In these elections, political candidates gain little
beyond getting the smallest majority possible (50.1%of
the vote), and thus, such elections are often decided by rel-
atively narrow margins (Downs, 1957). A small effect could
make a difference between winning and losing a battle-
ground state and thus provide a candidate with an edge
over their opponent. However, we note that election suc-
cess depends not only on the decisions of the voters, but
the effect of glasses on voter turnout, we cannot say
whether glasses would also help to mobilize voters to vote.
Facial features are consistently found to be important pre-
dictors of electoral success (Ballew & Todorov, 2007;
Todorov et al., 2005). Yet existing research has limited
itself to mostly testing fixed, unchangeable features of
faces. We focus on changeable features and show that
wearing glasses reliably boosts electoral success. Glasses
offer an easy, effective, and robust way for politicians to
change their facial features and increase the probability of
electoral success in the West (as long as competence
is important). In fact, politicians may even use glasses
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strategically, as voters are still more likely to vote for them
when this strategic use is known. The positive effect of
glasses may not generalize beyond Western settings such
as India though. Overall, our research suggests that not only
unchangeable, but also alterable facial features play an
important role in impression formation and electoral
Open Data/Materials
Data and analyses can be found at
Electronic Supplementary Materials
The electronic supplementary material is available with the
online version of the article at
ESM 1.Analyses (.pdf)
Stimulus development, Studies 1band4b, and additional
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Social Psychology (2018) Ó2018 Hogrefe Publishing
14 A. Fleischmann et al., Glasses Increase Electoral Success
${protocol}:// - Alexandra Fleischmann <> - Monday, December 10, 2018 4:39:14 AM - Universitäts- und Stadtbibliothek Köln IP Address:
We would like to thank Niek de Boer and Andrea Przegendza for
developing the stimuli, and Agneta Gille for letting us include her
pictures in this paper.
This research was partly funded by a Leo-Spitzer-Prize for Junior
Researchers awarded to Joris Lammers by the University of Cologne.
Alexandra Fleischmann, Joris Lammers, Janka I. Stoker, and Harry
Garretsen designed the study concept. A. Fleischmann and
J. Lammers designed the studies, and A. Fleischmann collected and
analyzed the data. A. Fleischmann drafted the manuscript; all authors
edited the manuscript and approved of the final version.
Received November 30, 2017
Revision received July 23, 2018
Accepted July 23, 2018
Published online December 10, 2018 Alexandra Fleischmann
Social Cognition Center Cologne
University of Cologne
Richard-Strauss-Str. 2
50931 Köln
Alexandra Fleischmann
Ó2018 Hogrefe Publishing Social Psychology (2018)
A. Fleischmann et al., Glasses Increase Electoral Success 15
${protocol}:// - Alexandra Fleischmann <> - Monday, December 10, 2018 4:39:14 AM - Universitäts- und Stadtbibliothek Köln IP Address:
... It is possible that when these inferences are made, they could affect memory for those individuals. For example, glasses can give a perception of intelligence (Fleischmann et al., 2019). An early study by Harris (1991) found that people wearing glasses were perceived as less attractive, more intelligent, and more intense than those without glasses. ...
... These results suggest that people may make rapid inferences about an individual based on whether the person is wearing glasses. Fleischmann et al. (2019) conducted a study on the effect glasses have perception of intelligence for politicians running in an electoral race, both in the United States as well as in India. Politicians who wore glasses in the U.S. were viewed as being intelligent; however, the effect of glasses making the politician appear intelligent was not significant in India. ...
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Demographic trends indicate an increasing elderly population accompanied by an increase in the prevalence of individuals with Alzheimer's disease (AD). These trends are likely to result in increasing numbers of elderly individuals who wander away from home or care facilities. There is limited research on the efficacy of systems for alerting the public about missing elderly individuals, such as Silver Alerts (SA). Previous research on SAs was limited to alerts featuring White senior citizens. The present study is the first to extend SA research to Black senior citizens. A sample of college students (N = 210) viewed a mock SA along with a short video of a "missing" couple and later attempted to recognize the two individuals from a series of photos. The male and female targets were shown in the SA either together or separately and with or without glasses, and participants were shown photos with and without glasses. The results indicated no effect of whether the couple was shown together or separately, but participants were more likely to recognize the missing male without glasses when he had been shown without glasses in the SA. The female target was recognized more often when wearing glasses than when not wearing glasses, irrespective of how she had been shown in the SA. The results suggest that the appearance of the target at encoding and at recognition may affect ability to identify the target, but that such effects may depend on individual characteristics. Supplementary information: The online version contains supplementary material available at 10.1007/s12144-021-02531-8.
... It is important to note that most photos we collected in 2012 were actually photographed earlier (close to the actual election in 2009). 8 see Fleischmann, Lammers, Stoker, and Garretsen (2019) for an in-depth discussion of the importance of glasses for electoral success. 9 Because previous research has established that voters can infer political orientation and party affiliation from facial portraits (Herrmann & Shikano, 2016;Ivanov, Delmas, Muller, & Wänke, 2018;Olivola, Sussman, Tsetsos, Kang, & Todorov, 2012;Samochowiec, Wänke, & Fiedler, 2010; for a review see Wänke, 2015) and that in the U.S. Republican voters are more likely to vote for candidates with a stereotypically Republican-looking face (Olivola et al., 2012(Olivola et al., , 2018, we consider it especially important to control for party affiliation in our statistical analyses to account for a potential relationship between facial features and political orientation. ...
... Some have argued that the emergence of consensus judgements at around 3-5 years is early enough to preclude a social learning account of their origin (Cogsdill et al., 2014;Ewing, Sutherland, & Willis, 2019). Contrary to this view, however, the attribution of intelligence to those who wear glasses (Fleischmann, Lammers, Stoker, & Garretsen, 2019) also emerges at this point in development (Eggleston, Flavell, Tipper, Cook, & Over, 2021). Given that glasses have been in existence for less than 800 years (Ilardi, 2007), this trait inference cannot possibly be a genetic adaptation; rather, it must be learned, either through exposure to cultural messages or via first-hand experience (Over & Cook, 2018). ...
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When we encounter a stranger for the first time, we spontaneously attribute to them a wide variety of character traits based on their facial appearance. There is increasing consensus that learning plays a key role in these first impressions. According to the Trait Inference Mapping (TIM) model, first impressions are the products of mappings between ‘face space’ and ‘trait space’ acquired through domain-general associative processes. Drawing on the associative learning literature, TIM predicts that first-learned associations between facial appearance and character will be particularly influential: they will be difficult to unlearn and will be more likely to generalise to novel contexts than appearance-trait associations acquired subsequently. The study of face-trait learning de novo is complicated by the fact that participants, even young children, already have extensive experience with faces before they enter the lab. This renders the study of first-learned associations from faces intractable. Here, we overcome this problem by using Greebles – a class of novel synthetic objects about which participants had no previous knowledge or preconceptions – as a proxy for faces. In four experiments (total N = 640) with adult participants we adapt classic AB-A and AB-C renewal paradigms to study appearance-trait learning. Our results indicate that appearance-trait associations are subject to contextual control, and are resistant to counter-stereotypical experience.
... An indicator considered as perceived intelligence is eyewear or glasses. Studies have shown (Fleischmann et al., 2019;Gerger et al., 2017) that people wearing glasses are deemed more intelligent than those not wearing glasses. Therefore, scientists not wearing glasses may be perceived as less intelligent. ...
Memes within animated graphical interchange formats (GIFs) are developed and shared by Internet users to communicate cultural ideas, symbols, or practices for a wide global audience. Among the billions of GIFs shared internationally, some portray scientists engaged in scientific work. Media and science education scholarship alike have evidenced how scientists are portrayed can influence social perceptions of science and contribute to stereotypes that deter youth’s interest in and affinity to science and science occupations. To understand what social perceptions of science may manifest from new media (GIFs), the present study ascertained stereotypes using Warmth and Competence constructs from Fiske’s Stereotype Content Model (SCM). The SCM utilizes high, medium, and low warmth and competence dimensions found in media-based imagery to illuminate stereotypes. Researchers coded and categorised 287 meme-based GIFs of scientists sourced the largest online GIF repository, Giphy. A directed qualitative content analysis found high-competence and low-warmth dimensions most represented within the sample that theoretically (per SCM) represent perceptions that contribute to an envious stereotype with elements of admiration and contempt. This study suggests that although there have been improvements in the portrayals of scientists in media, however, GIFs may preserve and perpetuate the trope of the competent, yet cold, scientist.
... In Study 1, we sought to replicate previous findings from cultures such as the US (Fleischmann, Lammers, Stoker, & Garretsen, 2019) and Scandinavia (Hellström & Tekle, 1994) that individuals wearing glasses are judged more intelligent. ...
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Previous research indicates that first impressions from faces are the products of automatic and rapid processing and emerge early in development. These features have been taken as evidence that first impressions have a phylogenetic origin. We examine whether first impressions acquired through learning can also possess these features. First, we confirm that adults rate a person as more intelligent when they are wearing glasses (Study 1). Next, we show this inference persists when participants are instructed to ignore the glasses (Study 2) and when viewing time is restricted to 100 milliseconds (Study 3). Finally, we show that six-year-old, but not 4-year-old, children perceive individuals wearing glasses to be more intelligent, indicating that the effect is seen relatively early in development (Study 4). These data indicate that automaticity, rapid access, and early emergence are not evidence that first impressions have an innate origin. Rather, these features are equally compatible with a learning model. Keywords: First Impressions;
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Online social networks are increasingly consequential in individuals’ professional and personal lives, as many people engage online to create and maintain meaningful relationships and satisfy their needs for social connection. People tend to curate their online representations (profile pictures for different websites, videogame avatars, bitmojis, profile page bios, etc.) with almost as much regularity as their corporeal (real-world) self-presentation. As such, the current study explored the socially utilitarian choices people make when presenting themselves in both the corporeal and virtual public spheres. Participants completed a questionnaire assessing various aspects of their self-presentation and behavior in real-life, social media, and online videogames. We found several differences in self-presentation strategies in both online and offline contexts based primarily on ethnoracial background, sex, and skin tone. Minority women (particularly Multiracial women) reported dyeing their hair significantly more than White women, and the overwhelming majority reported dyeing their hair a lighter color than their natural hair color. Women use more emojis and exclamation points in emails and digital interactions than men, and they are more likely to use skin lightening filters before posting a selfie on social media. In addition, we found a descriptive pattern indicating that straight women and bisexual women dating men use more filters than lesbians and bisexual women dating women. Finally, in online videogames, men who are below average height reported creating videogame avatars that were taller than they were, individuals with darker skin tones reported creating avatars with skin tones lighter than their own, and introverts reported that they pretend to be extroverted in videogames more than extroverts reported pretending to be introverted. This study highlights the importance of online self-presentation on people’s social lives and the strategies that people utilize to align how they believe they are socially perceived with a more idealized version of themselves, or a version of themselves that will confer greater social capital than what they believe they naturally embody. Given the increasing possibilities of identity customization in the virtual public sphere, further research is needed to fully understand the complex relationship between online and offline self-presentation.
Humans spontaneously attribute character traits to strangers based on their facial appearance. Although these ‘first impressions’ typically have no basis in reality, some authors have assumed that they have an innate origin. By contrast, the Trait Inference Mapping (TIM) account proposes that first impressions are products of culturally acquired associative mappings that allow activation to spread from representations of facial appearance to representations of trait profiles. According to TIM, cultural instruments, including propaganda, illustrated storybooks, art and iconography, ritual, film, and TV, expose many individuals within a community to common sources of correlated face–trait experience, yielding first impressions that are shared by many, but typically inaccurate. Here, we review emerging empirical findings, many of which accord with TIM, and argue that future work must distinguish first impressions based on invariant facial features (e.g., shape) from those based on facial behaviours (e.g., expressions).
People use facial information to infer others’ leadership potential across numerous domains; but what forms the basis of these judgements and how much do they matter? Here, we quantitatively reviewed the literature on perceptions of leaders from facial cues to better understand the association between physical appearance and leader outcomes. We used standard random-effects meta-analytic techniques to determine how appearance cues relate to leader perceptions and associated constructs. Appearance cues suggesting the presence of qualities often desired in leaders correlated with leader selection and success (M Z-r =.26, 95% CI [.21,.31]). Larger effect sizes emerged for popularity outcomes (i.e., those based on perceptions) than for performance outcomes (i.e., those based on external measures). These data help to explain how people envision leaders and their characteristics, providing potential insights to why they select and follow particular individuals over others.
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Since good-looking politicians win more votes, a beauty advantage for politicians on the left or on the right is bound to have political consequences. We show that politicians on the right look more beautiful in Europe, the United States and Australia. Our explanation is that beautiful people earn more, which makes them less inclined to support redistribution. Our model of within-party competition predicts that voters use beauty as a cue for conservatism when they do not know much about candidates and that politicians on the right benefit more from beauty in low-information elections. Evidence from real and experimental elections confirms both predictions.
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Previous research argued that stereotypes differ primarily on the 2 dimensions of warmth/communion and competence/agency. We identify an empirical gap in support for this notion. The theoretical model constrains stereotypes a priori to these 2 dimensions; without this constraint, participants might spontaneously employ other relevant dimensions. We fill this gap by complementing the existing theory-driven approaches with a data-driven approach that allows an estimation of the spontaneously employed dimensions of stereotyping. Seven studies (total N = 4,451) show that people organize social groups primarily based on their agency/socioeconomic success (A), and as a second dimension, based on their conservative-progressive beliefs (B). Communion (C) is not found as a dimension by its own, but rather as an emergent quality in the two-dimensional space of A and B, resulting in a 2D ABC model of stereotype content about social groups. (PsycINFO Database Record
Research shows people share common political facial stereotypes: They associate faces with political ideologies. Moreover, given that many voters rely on party affiliation, political ideology, and appearances to select political candidates, we might expect that political facial stereotypes would sway voting preferences and, by extension, the share of votes going to each candidate in an election. And yet few studies have examined whether having a stereotypically conservative‐looking (or liberal‐looking) face predicts a candidate's vote shares. Using data from U.S. election exit polls, we show that the Republican voters within each state are more likely to vote for a candidate (even a Democrat) the more that person has a stereotypically Republican‐looking face. By contrast, the voting choices of the Democratic voters within each state are unrelated to political facial stereotypes. Moreover, we show that the relationship between political facial stereotypes and voting does not depend on state‐level ideology: Republican voters in both right‐leaning (“red”) and left‐leaning (“blue”) states are more likely to vote for candidates with conservative‐looking faces. These results have several important practical and theoretical implications concerning the nature and impact of political facial stereotypes, which we discuss.
Recent research finds that political candidates and leaders with dominant, masculine physical features are more preferred under conditions of conflict than of cooperation. Importantly, however, methodological limitations of past research have hindered the identification of whether this effect reflects that voters intuitively view (1) dominant leaders as more competent in solving problems of conflict, (2) nondominant leaders as more competent in solving problems of cooperation, or (3) both. In this article, we utilize recent advances in evolutionary psychology to form precise predictions on the nature of the underlying psychology and employ an unprecedented array of data types—including highly controlled experiments, natural experiments, and behavioral measures—to investigate the validity of these predictions. Using large approximately nationally representative surveys of 2,009 Poles and Ukrainians fielded during the Crimea crisis in 2014, we find that preferences for leader dominance are exclusively driven by the intuition that dominant leaders are better able to facilitate aggressive responses during social conflict and that these preferences are regulated by contextual conditions and individual predispositions related to such responses.
Morality, sociability, and competence are distinct dimensions in person perception. We argue that a person’s morality informs us about their likely intentions, whereas their competence and sociability inform us about the likelihood that they will fulfill those intentions. Accordingly, we hypothesized that whereas morality would be considered unconditionally positive, sociability and competence would be highly positive only in moral others, and would be less positive in immoral others. Using exploratory factor analyses, Studies 1a and 1b distinguished evaluations of morality and sociability. Studies 2 to 5 then showed that sociability and competence are evaluated positively contingent on morality—Study 2 demonstrated this phenomenon, while the remaining studies explained it (Study 3), generalized it (Studies 3-5), and ruled out an alternative explanation for it (Study 5). Study 6 showed that the positivity of morality traits is independent of other morality traits. These results support a functionalist account of these dimensions of person perception.