Thursday, November 22, 2007

Predicting election outcomes in 100 milliseconds!

Another example of a quick judgment turning out to be more accurate than a considered one... Ballew and Todorov showed study participants transient pictures of the winner and runner-up for recent United States gubernatorial elections. Rapid, unreflective judgments of competence based solely on facial appearance (of candidates participants did not recognize) predicted the actual outcomes of gubernatorial elections. Instructions to deliberate and make a good judgment led to less accurate predictions of the election outcomes. Here is their abstract :
Here we show that rapid judgments of competence based solely on the facial appearance of candidates predicted the outcomes of gubernatorial elections, the most important elections in the United States next to the presidential elections. In all experiments, participants were presented with the faces of the winner and the runner-up and asked to decide who is more competent. To ensure that competence judgments were based solely on facial appearance and not on prior person knowledge, judgments for races in which the participant recognized any of the faces were excluded from all analyses. Predictions were as accurate after a 100-ms exposure to the faces of the winner and the runner-up as exposure after 250 ms and unlimited time exposure. Asking participants to deliberate and make a good judgment dramatically increased the response times and reduced the predictive accuracy of judgments relative to both judgments made after 250 ms of exposure to the faces and judgments made within a response deadline of 2 s. Finally, competence judgments collected before the elections in 2006 predicted 68.6% of the gubernatorial races and 72.4% of the Senate races. These effects were independent of the incumbency status of the candidates. The findings suggest that rapid, unreflective judgments of competence from faces can affect voting decisions.

Figure - An example of an experimental trial in the 250-ms presentation condition. Participants decided who was more competent.

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