On the Face of It: The Psychology of Electability

The New Yorker:

Few people knew that the country’s thirty-second President was paralyzed. Most knew that he’d had polio, but they remained unaware that he could not walk. Franklin Delano Roosevelt managed to hide the extent of his condition from the majority of the voting public with a simulated walking technique and a moratorium on photography of him in motion or in a wheelchair. His successor, Harry S. Truman, followed an opposite approach to publicity: for his first election campaign, he completed a train tour that covered some twenty-two thousand miles. At each stop, he would make sure that voters got a good, long look at him. Both Presidents lived before the era of televised debates and the constant presence of the media, but they had intuited the exact same thing: when it came to voter support, physical appearance mattered.

In 2003, the Princeton psychologist Alexander Todorov began to suspect that, except for those people who have hard-core political beliefs, the reasons we vote for particular candidates could have less to do with politics and more to do with basic cognitive processes—in particular, perception.

Read the whole story: The New Yorker

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