Transformed Facial Similarity as a Political Cue: A Preliminary Investigation

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Abstract

Experimental subjects evaluated a political candidate whose face was digitally altered to absorb the subjects' facial structure. For half of the subjects, the photograph of the candidate was morphed such that the image presented was a blend composed of 60% of the unfamiliar Caucasian male and 40% of the subject. For the other half the photograph was unaltered. Given previous research on implicit familiarity (Zajonc, 1968, 1980), we predicted that the morph would advantage the candidate. The results demonstrated no main effect of the similarity manipulation. However, there was a robust similarity by gender interaction. Male subjects evaluated the morphed candidate more favorably than the unaltered photograph, while female subjects rated him more negatively. We discuss potential explanations for this interaction effect and explore the possible implications of facial similarity as a political cue in both high- and low-information elections.

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