The New York Times:
JOHN F. KENNEDY, Sarah Palin, Mitt Romney, Kirsten Gillibrand: Americans have a long history of electing good-looking leaders. Of course, not every successful candidate could be a stand-in for George Clooney or Angelina Jolie. Indeed, sometimes a less attractive candidate triumphs over a better-looking rival. So when and why do voters prefer more attractive politicians?
Scientists had previously theorized that the general preference for attractive leaders was just another example of a “halo effect.” In other words, we attribute all kinds of positive characteristics to attractive people, and this tendency leads to more votes for politicians who look like Hollywood stars.
But our work challenges this traditional view. As we argue in a new article in the journal Psychological Science, people’s preferences for good-looking politicians may be linked to ancient adaptations for avoiding disease. In fact, the preference for attractive politicians seems to ebb and flow with voters’ concerns about germs.
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