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Research Center Working Paper Series No. 5

The Effects of Physical and Vocal Attractiveness on Impression Formation of Politicians Melissa Surawski University of New Hampshire The Department of Psychology Conant Hall 10 Library Way Durham, NH 03820 (603) 862-2360 [email protected] Elizabeth Ossoff, Ph.D. Professor of Psychology Coordinator New Hampshire Institute of Politics Saint Anselm College Manchester, N.H. 03102-1310 (603) 641-7133 [email protected]

Abstract: In order to investigate the nature of the combination of varying levels of vocal and physical attractiveness on the perception of hypothetical political candidates, 90 adults were asked to rate photographs of target politicians on scales for the dimensions of competency, trustworthiness, qualification, and leadership ability. It was hypothesized and confirmed that the halo effect elicited by physical attractiveness is stronger and more robust than the halo effect elicited by vocal attractiveness; however vocal attractiveness did impact the perception of the candidates by lowering the ratings associated with candidates that were presented as highly attractive but possessing an unattractive voice.

This research was sponsored by the Jean D. Smith Center for Democracy and Citizenship at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at Saint Anselm College

Since Dion, Berscheid, and Walster's (1972) classic study on the tendency to attribute more favorable characteristics to attractive targets, the "what is beautiful is good" stereotype has received much attention in the social perception literature. In fact, this purported halo effect has been accepted as a strong and general phenomenon within social psychology (Adams, 1982; Alley & Hildebrandt, 1988; Berscheid & Walster, 1974). While the role of physical attractiveness and vocal attractiveness in the formation of positive impressions has been extensively studied, little work has been done examining the interaction effect of these two channels, and even less work, if any, has explored this issue with specific regard to politicians. Accordingly, the purpose of the present study is to examine the interaction between vocal attractiveness and physical appearance in the attribution of positive qualities to politicians. In one of the first studies documenting the existence of an attractiveness halo effect, Dion (1972) and her colleagues had participants rate photographs of faces that had been pre-selected on the basis of naïve judges' agreement that the pictured targets were low, medium, or high in physical attractiveness. The participants' ratings pertained to various personality traits as well as to life outcomes, such as marital happiness and career success. The results of this study indicated that, in the absence of any other information about the target, participants had attributed more favorable personality traits and more successful life outcomes to the pictured individuals to the extent that they were physically attractive. Many replications supported Dion's conclusions, including work by Snyder, Tanke, and Berscheid (1977) on the behavioral consequences of the attractiveness halo effect. In this study, men were more responsive to, and elicited greater responsiveness

from the more attractive targets. This differential treatment of attractive and unattractive targets in an intimate conversational setting may be extended to a broader social situation, such as the political arena. In fact, it has been shown to be the case that physically attractive candidates win a greater number of elections than candidates judged to be unattractive (Efran & Patterson, 1974). As more and more research confirmed the influence of the attractiveness halo effect on interpersonal perception and interaction (see Feingold, 1992, for a metaanalysis), social psychological research expanded into areas that might explain why this social heuristic exists. Studies in implicit personality theory suggested that cognitive schemas on hand to save mental effort by making interpersonal perception a top-down, automatic process were responsible (Ashmore & Del Boca, 1979). Locher, Unger, Sociedade, and Wahl (1993) demonstrated this automaticity of judgments of attractiveness by presenting participant judges with pictures of female and male targets of differing levels of physical attractiveness for only 100 milliseconds. The results of this study indicated that judges could reliably perceive the level of attractiveness of the targets even with the very brief observation time they were allowed. The authors argue that physical attractiveness should be added to the list of other characteristics such as age, race, and emotional expression, which research shows can be detected with a single, brief glance at another person. The strength and apparent automaticity of the physical attractiveness stereotype lead researchers to explore the process of how the stereotype is acquired and adopted. Direct observation of people in every day life and exposure to cultural representations of attractive and unattractive people reveal that better-looking people receive more

favorable reactions from others. It has been shown that these favorable reactions are elicited from good looks, and that other positive aspects of the attractive target, such as behavior and personality traits are inferred from those good looks by the observer (Eagly, Ashmore, Makhani, & Longo, 1991). One can conclude then, that physical beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but inner beauty is in the mind of the beholder. Perceivers then, may conclude that physical attractiveness actually is correlated with various positive traits. Research by Adams (1977) on the true relationship between physical appearance and personality has shown that good looks co-vary with social skills, social adjustment, and an absence of shyness and social anxiety. This finding is probably due to an expectancy effect; perceivers who attribute positive qualities to attractive targets interact with them in such a way as to elicit easy and warm social behavior (Feingold, 1992). It may also be the case that the social attractiveness stereotype is learned through cultural messages that associate beauty with good things and ugliness with bad things. In children's stories, for example, the heroine is often a beautiful young woman, while the antagonists are witches, giants, ogres, or other such repugnant creatures. Caricatures criticizing politicians often depict them in grotesque form, while media praising them often depicts a very attractive image of the politician. Added to these is the constant permeation of advertisements into everyday life that depict attractive people receiving attention and rewards for their looks. These and other myriad opportunities for individuals to connect attractiveness with positive personality traits only solidify the "what is pretty is good" heuristic. Considering that the physical attractiveness stereotype is acquired in the context of a social environment, it is not too surprising that research into inter-rater reliability for

attractiveness judgments reveals that people do generally agree on how attractive targets are (Bull & Rumsey, 1988). Early studies by Iliffe (1960) in the United Kingdom and Udry (1965) in the United States found strong inter-judge reliability when ranking female faces for how "pretty" they were. The gender, locality, and socioeconomic class of the several thousand participants had no effect on the rankings. Age also had very little effect, unless the perceivers were over the age of 55, in which case they tended to rate the very young female faces as less attractive and the mature faces as more attractive. This and other research (Terry & Davis, 1976) conclude that attractive faces included those with a short and narrow nose, large eyes and pupils, and a large forehead. Just as there is a tendency to agree on which faces are attractive, there is agreement on which voices are attractive as well. Furthermore, several studies provide support for the hypothesis that there exists a halo effect associated with vocal attractiveness that is comparable to the one associated with physical attractiveness. Zuckerman and Driver (1989) presented participant judges with audio recordings of targets who read the same excerpt of text, and found that targets with attractive voices were rated more favorable on scales related to dominance, achievement, and likeability than targets with unattractive voices. Although very little research has examined the objective qualities of the attractive voice, preliminary results indicate that the attractive voice is intermediate in its loudness and more resonant (Zuckerman & Miyake, 1993). While perceivers use both vocal attractiveness and physical attractiveness to make quick inferences about the personality of a target, it appears that the different channels of attractiveness are used for different types of judgments. The face seems to be the more important channel for judgments of likeability and friendliness, while the voice is more

important for judgments of dominance and competency (Rosenthal, Hall, DiMatteo, Rogers, & Archer, 1979). While faster speech rate, relative lack of non-fluencies such as pauses and repetitions, and increased movement of the voice are associated with higher ratings on competence and dominance; the effects of these attributes of vocal cues on judgments of likeability and perceived friendliness were weaker and less consistent (Zuckerman, 1989). This research becomes especially relevant to politicians seeking to enhance their images as competent and credible speakers by highlighting the role of vocal qualities in impression formation. Because of the literature suggesting that the two different channels of attractiveness are used to make different attributions about targets, researchers began to question how information from both of these channels is integrated to form impressions of a target (Miyake & Zuckerman, 1993; Zuckerman, 1989). They recognized that the study of only physical attractiveness or only vocal attractiveness could not fully account for attractiveness effects in real life. If attractiveness impressions are derived from both channels, it would seem reasonable to expect a cross-channel interaction in subsequent attractiveness ratings. Specifically, when both visual and auditory information are presented to judges, physical attractiveness may affect the impressions of vocal attractiveness, and vice-versa. Thus, while main-effects may be found for the influence of each channel on personality ratings, an interaction may be found as well. For example, positive personality impressions derived from an attractive face may be countered by negative personality impressions derived from an unattractive one; but also an attractive face may no longer be considered as attractive when accompanied by an unattractive voice.

This is precisely what the present study seeks to investigate: the effects of the combination of varying levels of physical and vocal attractiveness on the positive qualities attributed to target politicians in the absence of any other information about them. By looking at the cross-channel effects of impressions of attractiveness, this study seeks to understand more clearly the overall impact of each channel in subsequent impression formation of the target politician. Zuckerman, Miyake, and Hodgins (1991) found that ratings of physical or vocal attractiveness in a cross-channel situation may be less extreme than attractiveness ratings when only one channel is presented. Furthermore, they found that in a multiple-channel condition, judges' impressions of targets' vocal attractiveness were influenced by his or her physical attractiveness, and vice-versa. This crossover effect occurred even when judges were instructed not to pay attention to a specific channel. Also, in the multiplechannel condition, mixed attractiveness accounted for more of the variance in personality ratings than did attractiveness scores for one channel alone. The interpretation for this finding was that in a multiple-channel situation it is the combination of physical and vocal attractiveness rather than just one of these channels that influence judges' personality impressions. This study suggests that the effects of the different channels are interactive and not additive. Thus, it appears that the face alters the way a voice is perceived, and the voice, in turn, alters the way the face is perceived. This influence of the vocal component of impression formation is illustrated by a study showing the effects of the physical attractiveness stereotype are most pronounced in the total absence of other information about a target. Riggle, Ottati, Wyer, Kuklinski, and Schwarz (1992) found that political candidates' physical attractiveness affected

judgments of them when no other information about them was made available. However, these effects decreased when more specific indications of the candidates' political orientation and voting stats were available. Even though it is unlikely that votes are cast based on candidates' physical attractiveness alone, studying the implications of the attractiveness halo effect in politics is of value. People seem to be "cognitive misers" even when making decisions about politics, and may rely on social cognitive heuristics to help them make decisions about candidates (Lodge, Steenbergen, & Brau, 1995) Despite evidence that the halo effect does not exert as strong an influence on impression formation when perceivers are presented with more information about a target, a classic study by Efran & Patterson (1974) documented significant differences in voting results for attractive and unattractive politicians. These researchers asked high school students to rate the attractiveness of 79 candidates for the Canadian Parliament from photographs. The target candidates were not identified as politicians, and manipulation checks indicated that the participant judges had recognized none of the politicians. The results indicated that the attractive candidates obtained an average of 32% of the votes cast in their "ridings," whereas the unattractive candidates received an average of only 11%, and that there were seven winning candidates within the attractive group but only one winner in the unattractive group. Overall, physical attractiveness of the candidate was significantly correlated with the proportion of the vote obtained within the candidate's riding. Efran and Patterson's results, then, suggest that a candidate's level of attractiveness may have some influence over how the public votes. However, these effects only took into account physical attractiveness.

Because little work has been done on the combined effects of the level of physical and vocal attractiveness on impression formation of politicians, it is still unknown how candidates' vocal attractiveness may affect impression formation and subsequent voting decisions. Since success in politics relies heavily on a myriad of public appearances, perhaps more so than any other career, it is advantageous to study this specific example of social behavior, rather than generalize the results from other studies that did not specifically look at politicians. It may be that politicians win because of how they look in conjunction with how they sound. Moreover, given the importance of credibility, competence, and leadership to political office, it can be hypothesized that the vocal channel, which is more heavily relied upon in making inferences about these qualities, exerts more of an influence on the process of impression formation of politicians than in impression formation of targets that are not politicians. We therefore specifically hypothesize that politicians rated high in both physical attractiveness and vocal attractiveness will benefit most from the attractiveness halo effect, while politicians judged to be low on both channels will benefit the least. However, physically unattractive politicians with attractive voices may also benefit to some degree from the halo effect for certain attributes. And, similarly, physically attractive politicians with decidedly unattractive voices may experience a decrease in the ratings of positive qualities that perceivers have attributed to him or her.

Method Pretest of Stimuli and Materials

A preliminary database of 50 politicians' photographs was collected from the website of the senate and legislature of a large Midwestern state. Only one website was used because of the uniformity in body orientation of the subject and the background against which the subject was photographed. The faces were projected in a slide-show format on a large screen in a classroom to 32 participants who participated in the pretest for course credit. These participants rated each face on 7-point scales of attractiveness and likeability. Of the original 50 faces, 15 were chosen to be included as stimuli in the present study: the five faces that had received the ratings that were highest, the five that had received the lowest ratings, and the five faces that received the ratings that were closest to the overall mean were used as the high, low, and medium attractiveness conditions respectively. Similarly, 50 voices of actual politicians were collected from televised broadcasts of C-Span. The voices were recorded onto a standard cassette tape and played to participants with a Sony portable stereo. Thirty participants, again college students participating for course credit, rated the voices in terms of their attractiveness and likeability. Fifteen voices were chosen to be paired with the faces: the five voices with the highest ratings, the five voices with the lowest ratings, and the five voices with ratings that fell closest to the overall mean. Participants Ninety adults (40 males and 50 females) participated in the present study and were compensated monetarily for their time. The mean age of the participants was 43.06 years. Most of the participants were employed at a small, Catholic liberal arts college in the northeast. All participants were registered voters. Overall, the sample was fairly

interested in politics, with 61.6% of the participants reporting at least a moderately high level of interest. Stimuli Participant judges were presented simultaneously with photographs and voice recordings that had been previously judged as being of high, medium, or low attractiveness of male politicians. Because attractive women appear to lose their perceived advantage when performing tasks regard as masculine in nature (Cash, 1990), and it can be argued that politics is a male-dominated field, female targets were excluded from the study. In each of the photographs, the targets sat in front of the same neutralcolored background with their posture oriented in the same manner, and all were dressed in dark-colored suits. Additionally, all photographed targets exhibited minimal facial expressions. Politicians' voice recordings were obtained from the televised broadcast of legislative proceedings on the cable channel C-Span and C-Span II. Most of the recorded voices were of U.S. representatives. An effort was made to record voices that would not likely be recognized, did not contain a high degree of emotionality, and contained no information that would have an impact on the subsequent formation of impressions of credibility or competence of the speaker (for example, the transcript of one politician is as follows: "-most recently in 2001. From what I've seen things have changed, but all is not well in S-." Like the photographs, these voices as well had been pretested as high, medium, or low in attractiveness. There were nine attractiveness conditions of the stimuli: high physical/high vocal (HH); high physical/medium vocal (HM); high physical/low vocal (HL); medium

physical/high vocal (MH); medium physical/medium vocal (MM); medium physical/low vocal (ML); low physical/high vocal (LH); low physical/medium vocal (LM); and low physical/low vocal (LL). Each condition contained five politicians, and each participant was randomly selected to view and rate the politicians in only one condition. It was hypothesized that the ratings for the HH condition would be highest, followed by HM, MH, MM, ML, LH, LM, and finally, LL. Each politician was presented for ten seconds, followed by the presentation of a blank screen for another ten seconds which allowed participants to record their ratings. Materials The voices were recorded using a standard Samsung television and VCR unit. They were recorded onto a Magnivox VHS tape and downloaded into the voice recorder feature of Windows 98, where they were edited to ten seconds in length. These recordings and the photographs of the politicians obtained from the Internet were then imported into Microsoft PowerPoint 2000. The stimuli was presented on a 22" screen monitory approximately an arm's length away from the participant, and on speakers that came standard with the computers used for testing. The volume was set at approximately ¼ of the total loudness.

Dependent measures

Because attractive politicians are thought to possess desirable personality traits (Berry 1992), a 7-point Likert scale for attractiveness was included. High correlations between the attractiveness dimension and other dimensions would indicate the existence of an attractiveness-driven halo effect. O'Keefe (1990) has shown the importance of appearing qualified, trustworthy, and competent for the formation of favorable overall impressions for politicians; therefore scales for these dimensions were included as well. Finally, a scale to assess the perceived strength of the politician's leadership ability was also included in order to determine if such a complex impression as leadership can be formed based on minimal information of a target with some inter-judge agreement. Procedure The study was run at the research center of an institute for the study of politics. Participants entering the research center were told that the purpose of the study was to look at the process of first impressions of politicians. After full informed consent was obtained, they were asked to fill out a brief questionnaire about their demographic information and interest in politics. Upon completing the questionnaire, they were told that they would be asked to make ratings of five politicians using the five scales provided, and that the task might seem difficult because they had very little information on which to base their judgments. They were encouraged to give their "gut-reaction, first impression" of the politician, and told that there were no right or wrong answers. After rating the politicians, the participants were thanked for their participation, fully debriefed, and compensated for their time.


The dependent measures in the study were the politicians' ratings by participant judges on five Likert scales for the dimensions of attractiveness, competence, leadership, qualification, and trustworthiness. A 3x3 mixed design analysis of variance was conducted to determine if significant differences had been found on the ratings between the differing levels of attractiveness for the politicians. The within-subjects analyses of the variance associated with the targets nested in each condition was not found to be significant (F= .99, p>.05). However, the over-all F value for differences in ratings between the attractiveness conditions also was not significant, F=1.21, p>.05. A series of planned contrasts did yield some significant findings, however. For the attractiveness ratings, the HH condition was found to be more attractive than the HL, t(18) = 2.55, p<.05; the LM condition, t(18) = 2.61, p<.05; the LH condition, t(18) = 2.61, p<.05, and the LL condition, t(18) = 2.811, p<.05, supporting the literature on the physical attractiveness stereotype (see Table 1). However, the MM condition was rated significantly more attractive than the HL condition, t (18)= 3.71, p<.05, the LH condition, t(17)=3.54, p<.05, and the LM condition, t(17)=3.45, p<.05 (See Table 2). These findings, in addition to the finding that the HH targets were rated significantly higher than the HL targets perhaps suggests that an attractive face paired with a decidedly unattractive voice can be unexpected and even jarring, and therefore associated with a decrease in attractiveness ratings. Four significant differences were found between conditions on the competency ratings. Most interestingly, a significant difference between the HH condition and the HL condition, t(18) = 2.37, p<.05, suggests that the vocal attractiveness is operating in addition to physical attractiveness in social judgment, and again suggests that a disparity

between the attractiveness of a face and a voice can be grating (see Table 3). However, it appears that physical attractiveness is still the more salient cue, given that for the other three significant differences for the competency ratings, the condition with the higher level of physical attractiveness received the higher competency ratings. A similar pattern of results appeared for the leadership ratings. The HH targets were seen as having better leadership ability than the HL targets, t(17) = 3.19, p<.05, again suggesting that physical attractiveness does not completely eclipse the role of vocal attractiveness in impression formation. However, like the competency ratings, in all other cases the higher leadership ratings were given to the conditions with the more physically attractive targets (see Table 4). The pattern continues for the trustworthiness ratings: again, the HH targets were rated as more trustworthy than the HL targets t(18) = 2.33, p<.05, replicating for the fourth time in this study the ability of the voice to impact social judgment, even when paired with a very attractive face. The HH targets were also rated as more trustworthy than the LM targets, t(17) = 3.61, p<.05; the MM targets were rated as more trustworthy than the LM targets, t(16) 3.68, p<05; and finally, the ML targets were rated as more trustworthy than the LM targets, t(17) = 2.74, p<.05 (see Tables 5 and 6). Only two significant differences were found in the ratings for the qualified dimension: the HH targets were seen as more qualified than the LM targets t(17) = 4.34, p<.05, and the MM targets were seen as more qualified than the LM targets, t(17) = 2.65, p<.05. These findings possibly suggest that not only is what is beautiful perceived as good, but what is consistent is good as well.


The purpose of the present study was to determine if the level of attractiveness of a target's voice impacts impression formation when visual information is available to the perceiver as well. It was hypothesized that significant differences would result between the differing levels of attractiveness on each of the dimensions for attractiveness, competence, leadership, qualification, and trustworthiness. Previous research supporting the existence of a halo effect associated with attractiveness led to the hypothesis that HH target politicians were expected to receive the highest scores in all five dimensions. Because the physical channel of attractiveness may be more salient and therefore more attended to than the vocal channel (Zuckerman, Miyake, and Hodgins, 1991), it was further hypothesized that the conditions with the second-highest ratings would be HM, followed by MH, MM, HL, ML, LH, LM, and finally, LL. The results of the present study confirmed previous research that has found that the visual channel is more salient, and therefore physical attractiveness takes precedent over vocal attractiveness. However, that is not to say that vocal attractiveness plays no role in social judgment: the target politicians in the HL condition were rated as significantly less attractive, competent, trustworthy, and has having less leadership ability than the HH target politicians, despite the fact that the visual stimuli in the two conditions were identical. Given that the voice is capable of impacting impressions formed of a target, how does vocal attractiveness contribute to overall impressions of attractiveness and subsequent attributions of competency? How do perceivers use the physical and vocal channel of attractiveness to form an impression of a target?

While some evidence supports the hypothesis that the two channels of attractiveness work as separate and distinct constructs (Zuckerman & Hodgins, 1991), the findings of the present study are more in accordance with the view that judgments of physical and vocal attractiveness follow a synergistic pattern; that is, the combined effect of each channel of attractiveness yields a response that is larger than the sum of their individual effects. Just as in the present study, Miyake and Zuckerman (1993) found that the high physical, high vocal attractiveness targets were consistently and distinctly rated higher than the targets of lower levels of attractiveness, although minimal variance was found between the other attractiveness conditions. According to the hypothesis that physical and vocal attractiveness are combined to form a single impression, then, a target who is to be seen and heard must be both beautiful and melodic in order to reap the benefits of the attractiveness halo effect. Because the synergistic pattern implies that perceivers tend to find targets unattractive when they are low on one or both attractiveness channels, it would be to a politician's best advantage to invest as much effort into sounding attractive as he does to appearing attractive. The lower ratings of the HL targets than the MM targets demonstrate perceivers' apparent preference for consistency in attractiveness level of the two channels, even over the relatively strong and automatic preference for physical attractiveness. However, because a large discrepancy between facial and vocal attractiveness can be striking, it may be in a politician's best interest in some cases, to take advantage of the attention-grabbing effect of mismatched attractiveness. More research is needed to determine the degrees to which perceivers prefer attractive politicians across different types of political situations. For example, do voters pay more

attention to and evaluate more positively an attractive candidate who is speaking about the presidential office representing the American people than an unattractive candidate? Or is it that stellar looks and a divine voice make voters feel that a politician is too unlike themselves to serve as a representative? Despite these unanswered questions, it remains clear that perceivers form impressions of targets based on no other information than his physical and vocal attractiveness. Understanding how attractiveness is perceived under different political circumstances will not only allow politicians to be more persuasive, it may also allow voters to become more attentive and responsive. When politicians make the effort to sound as attractive as they appear, they are perhaps making their voices more of a focal point, possibly increasing attention paid to the content of the message. And after all, if more attention is being paid to the content of the messages, then perhaps a candidate's attractiveness will not play as prominent a role in political elections.

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Riggle, E.D., Ottati, V.C., Wyer, R.S., Kuklinski, J., & Schwarz, N. (1992). Bases of political judgments: The role of stereotypic and nonstereotypic information. Political Behavior, 14, 67-87. Rosenthal, R., Hall, J.A., DiMatteo, M.R., Rogers, P.L., & Archer, D. (1979). Sensitivity to nonverbal communication: The PONS test. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press. Sears, D. (1968). Political Behavior. In G. Lindzey & E. Aronson (Eds.) Handbook of Social Psychology (Vol 2). New York: Academic Press. Synder, M., Tanke, E. D., & Berscheid, E. (1977). Social perception and interpersonal behavior: on the self-fulfilling nature of social stereotypes. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 35, 656-666. Udry, R. (1965). Structural correlates of feminine beauty preferences in Britain and the U.S.: A comparison. Sociology and Social Research, 49, 330-342. Terry, R. & Davis, J. (1976). Components of facial attractiveness. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 42, 562, Zuckerman, M. & Miyake, K. (1993). The attractive voice: What makes it so? Journal of Nonverbal Behavior, 17(2), 119-135. Zuckerman, M., & Hodgins, H. (1992). Developmental changes in the effects of the Zuckerman, M., Miyake, K., & Hodgins, H. (1991). Cross-channel effects of vocal and physical attractiveness and their implications for interpersonal perception. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 60(4), 545-554. Zuckerman, M., Hodgins, H., & Miyake, K. (1990). The vocal attractiveness stereotype: replication and elaboration. Journal of Nonverbal Behavior, 14, 97-112.

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