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Physical attractiveness, issue agreement, and assimilation effects in candidate appraisal

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  17 May 2016

James N. Schubert
Department of Political Science, Northern Illinois University, 415 Zulauf Hall, Dekalb, IL 60115
Margaret Ann Curran
Office of Research, Evaluation, and Policy Studies, College of Education, Northern Illinois University, Dekalb, IL 60115
Carmen Strungaru
Department of Animal Physiology, Biophysics, and Ethology, Faculty of Biology, University of Bucharest, Bucharest, Romania


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This study examines the cognitive and affective factors of candidate appraisal by manipulating candidate attractiveness and levels of issue agreement with voters. Drawing upon research in evolutionary psychology and cognitive neuroscience, this analysis proposes that automatic processing of physical appearance predisposes affective disposition toward more attractive candidates, thereby influencing cognitive processing of issue information. An experimental design presented attractive and unattractive candidates who were either liberal or conservative in a mock primary election. The data show strong partial effects for appearance on vote intention, an interaction between appearance and issue agreement, and a tendency for voters to assimilate the dissimilar views of attractive candidates. We argue that physical appearance is important in primary elections when the differences in issue positions and ideology between candidates is small.

Research Articles
Copyright © Association for Politics and the Life Sciences 


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