Your Political Party: Written on Your Face

Your face says a lot about you. It says some obvious stuff (your age, gender, and race, for example, are usually apparent by the way your face looks), but people can also glean other information from your mug—like your political party.

A recent study at Tufts took a bunch of undergraduates, showed them pictures of Democrat and Republican candidates from the 2004 and 2006 Senate elections, and asked them to guess each politician's political party. To eliminate any racial bias (people might think a black politician had to be a Democrat) they eliminated racial minority politicians.

The result? They found that the students' guesses were much better than chance. They also found that the students were good at guessing the political party affiliation of other students based on pictures of their faces.

The subtle clue the students used to make their guesses? Republicans' faces tended to score higher on a measure of "power," based on how dominant and mature they looked. Democrats' faces scored higher for "warmth," as based on their perceived likeability and trustworthiness.

I don't want to further unhelpful stereotypes about our political parties, but this is undeniably interesting stuff. What wasn't clear from the study is how the causation goes, though. Do Democrats try to look "warmer" (and Republicans more "powerful") or do the underlying traits cause the political beliefs?