Politics of Attraction

[picapp align=”left” wrap=”true” link=”term=halo&iid=264582″ src=”0261/2b8d1573-bab1-44ac-80ea-df54ff6b8f6d.jpg?adImageId=9434758&imageId=264582″ width=”234″ height=”331″ /] Studies have shown that people attribute all sorts of positive traits to people who are attractive (link includes a general definition of ‘attractiveness’ in a broad sense). Interestingly, the inverse seems to hold true – that people with good personalities are perceived as more attractive.

This is related to the Halo effect, whereby one positive trait (physical or character) suggests to the person making the observation a raft of other positive traits.

This study shows that people are more likely to trust attractive people more (and, conversely, be more disappointed if they prove unworthy of trust).

This suggests that people, in general, are more likely to consider seriously ideas presented by an attractive person that they would not otherwise. For example, if one is speaking to someone who holds a point of view with which they disagree, one would, theoretically, be more likely to consider whatever arguments they presented, whether or not they were intelligently discussed, than if they subconsciously found the person plain or were listening to them on the radio.

In contemplating this, I wondered about how much influence this has on politics. In the debate between JFK and Nixon, those who listened on the radio thought Nixon won, whereas the television audience thought JFK did, clearly affected by the discrepancy in appearance, as Nixon was recovering from illness and JFK had been campaigning in California, and had a nice tan.

[picapp align=”right” wrap=”true” link=”term=barak+obama&iid=1381539″ src=”9/f/7/2/09.jpg?adImageId=9434797&imageId=1381539″ width=”234″ height=”156″ /]At present, there is the discussion of Obama’s first year in the media, and the lead up to the UK elections which will include televised debate for the first time.

In the former case, I think we can see, to some extent, the greater ‘disappointment/punishment’ factor for the trust given (excessively?) to attractive people. Not necessarily that Obama has failed, but that he is perhaps being unduly castigated by people who assumed, for example, because he is tall and well-spoken he agreed with all of their personal viewpoints and would be capable of enacting laws in accordance with them.

In the latter instance, I think the debates will provide an interesting opportunity to observe this tendency. Obviously the current Labour government is in an awkward position because of the recession, but leaving that consideration aside, the three key debaters are Gordon Brown (Labour), David Cameron (Tory), and Nick Clegg (Liberal Democrat). Clegg is the most tv ready, and being from the smallest party, will probably gain the most simply from wide exposure. Cameron is prettier that Brown, certainly, although the Labour campaign is currently mocking the Tory campaign for having an airbrushed photo of Cameron staring down from billboards. Whether bringing that into the discussion negates the effect remains to be seen.

One would, of course, hope that in any election, the populace makes an effort to be informed about the various candidates and party platforms and vote for that which most closely represents what they feel is best for themselves and their community.

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