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

Download data and study materials from OSF

Principal investigators:

Jeremy Bailenson

Stanford University



Shanto Iyengar

Stanford University



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)


Feeling Thermometer
Vote Choice
Affective Response
Trait Ratings

Summary of Results

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.