Scandinavian Working Papers in Economics

Ratio Working Papers,
The Ratio Institute

No 139: Faces of politicians: Babyfacedness predicts inferred competence but not electoral success

Panu Poutvaara (), Henrik Jordahl () and Niclas Berggren ()
Additional contact information
Panu Poutvaara: Department of Economics, University of Helsinki, Postal: Department of Economics , University of Helsinki , P.O. Box 17 , FIN-00014 , Finland
Henrik Jordahl: The Research Institute of Industrial Economics, Postal: The Research Institute of Industrial Economics , P.O. Box 55665 , SE-102 15 Stockholm , Sweden
Niclas Berggren: The Ratio Institute, Postal: The Ratio Institute, P.O. Box 3203 , SE-103 64 Stockholm, Sweden

Abstract: Recent research has documented that competent-looking political candidates do better in U.S. elections and that babyfaced individuals are generally perceived to be less competent than maturefaced individuals. Taken together, this suggests that babyfaced political candidates are perceived as less competent and therefore fare worse in elections. We test this hypothesis, making use of photograph-based judgments by 2,772 respondents of the facial appearance of 1,785 Finnish political candidates. Our results confirm that babyfacedness is negatively related to inferred competence in politics. Despite this, babyfacedness is either unrelated or positively related to electoral success, depending on the sample of candidates.

Keywords: Babyfacedness; Competence; Beauty; Trustworthiness; Elections

JEL-codes: D72; J45; J70

16 pages, June 18, 2009

Note: Forthcoming in Journal of Experimental Social Psychology

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