Search TESS:


Non-Verbal Cues in Politics: Assessing the Interaction between Facial Similarity, Gender, and Candidate Visibility

Download data and study materials


Principal Investigator(s):

Jeremy Bailenson
Stanford University
Home page:

Shanto Iyengar
Stanford University
Home page:

Sample size: 1132
Field period: 1/14/2006 - 3/2/2006



Social science research demonstrates that people are drawn to others perceived as similar. We extend this finding to the political domain by comparing the relative effects of candidate familiarity as well as partisan, issue, gender, and facial similarity on voters? evaluations of candidates. A representative sample of voters across the country viewed images of prospective 2008 presidential candidates. Even though the effects of party and policy similarity dominated, facial similarity proved a significant cue for unfamiliar candidates. Thus, the evidence suggests that even in high-profile elections, voters respond to facial similarity, but most strongly with unfamiliar candidates.


Facial Similarity causes more advantage for unfamiliar candidates than for familiar candidates.

Experimental Manipulations:

Facial Similarity (high low)

Candidate Familiarity (high low)

Candidate Gender

Candidate Party

Voter Party

Candidate/Voter policy position match (high low)

Key Dependent Variables:

Feeling Thermometer

Vote Choice

Affective Response

Trait Ratings

Summary of Findings:

See Abstract.


See Abstract.


Bailenson, J.N., S. Iyengar, N. Yee, & N. Collins. 2008. Facial similarity between voters and candidates causes influence. Public Opinion Quarterly, 72:935-961.

Copyright © 2014, TESS