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HEY….do you have an twin sisters…?

Maybe it’s because you like the looks of the candidate. Or maybe it’s because the candidate looks a little like you, even if you don’t realize it.

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In a paper slated to be published in the December issue of Public Opinion Quarterly, Jeremy Bailenson, an assistant professor of communication, and Shanto Iyengar, the Harry and Norman Chandler Professor in Communication, say that people are subconsciously swayed by candidates who share their facial features.

“The field of political science has been dominated by the main ideal that voters are rational and that voters base their decisions on substance and issues and policy,” Bailenson said. “We wanted to say, ‘Well, how much of our decisions are actually based on superficial qualities?'”

The answer: More than they expected.

In three experiments, the researchers and their graduate students worked with cheap, easy-to-use computer software to morph pictures of about 600 test subjects with photos of politicians. And they kept coming up with the same results: For the would-be voters who weren’t very familiar with the candidates or in perfect lockstep with their positions or political parties, the facial similarity was enough to clinch their votes.

Social scientists have long known that people are more inclined to be friendly and helpful to those who obviously look like them. But what surprised Bailenson and Iyengar was that nobody swayed by one of the morphed photos could tell they were looking at a blended image.

“The big finding No. 1 is that when we do this, no one has any conscious, explicit idea that it’s going on,” Bailenson said. “The second big finding is that despite the fact they don’t consciously detect these processes, it affects their behavior. When the candidate looks more like you, you are more likely to vote for that candidate.”

The first experiment was conducted about a week before the 2004 presidential election with a group of 240 potential voters. The test subjects, who had no idea what the experiment was about, were split into three groups and shown pictures of incumbent President George Bush and his challenger, Sen. John Kerry.

One group was shown untainted pictures of both candidates. A second group had their photos morphed with a picture of Bush. And the third group had their photos spliced with a picture of Kerry. The doctored photos blended 40 percent of the test subjects’ facial features with 60 percent of the candidates’ natural looks—a ratio the researchers decided could change a photo enough without anyone consciously noticing.

more via sciencedaily

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