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Baby face wins hearts, no vote: study
Updated: 2005-06-13 08:47

A baby face may win hearts but it doesn' win votes, U.S. researchers said Thursday.

Students picked the winning U.S. congressional candidate nearly 70 percent of the time merely by glancing at their photos and deciding which one looked more competent, they said.

"his remarkable effect ... likely reflects differences in 'babyfacedness,'" Leslie Zebrowitz of Brandeis University and Joann Montepare of Emerson College, both in Massachusetts, wrote in a commentary.

For their study, Alexander Todorov and colleagues at Princeton University showed pairs of photographs of real candidates for Congress, winners and losers, to more than 800 students.

They asked them to choose the candidate they thought had won or would win, and asked them why. On average, the volunteers looked at each pair of photos for one second.

The students chose correctly 68.8 percent of the time, Todorov and colleagues report in this week's issue of the journal Science.

The students correctly chose the winner based on how competent he or she looked in 71.6 percent of the Senate races and in 66.8 percent of the House of Representatives races.

Zebrowitz, who wrote a book entitled "Reading Faces: Window to the Soul," and Montepare said it boiled down to having a baby face.

"A more babyfaced individual is perceived as less competent than a more mature-faced, but equally attractive, peer of the same age and sex," they wrote.

"Although we like to believe that we 'don't judge a book by its cover,' superficial appearance qualities such as babyfacedness profoundly affect human behavior in the blink of an eye," Zebrowitz said.

She said different cultures generally agreed on what gives a person a baby face a round face, large eyes, small nose, high forehead and small chin.

"As Darwin recollected in his autobiography, he was almost denied the chance to take the historic Beagle voyage the one that enabled the main observations of his theory of evolution on account of his nose," the researchers concluded.

"Apparently, the captain did not believe that a person with such a nose would 'possess sufficient energy and determination.'"

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