How a candidate moves influences how you vote (w/ Video)

March 9, 2010, Bangor University

(PhysOrg.com) -- The perceived health of an election candidate can predict how people will vote according to recently published research- and voters can form opinions about how healthy a candidate is based solely on the way that person moves.

The voters' conclusions may not be correct- and they may not even be aware that how the candidates moved influenced their decision to vote, but a clear link between how a candidate moves and subsequent voting patterns has been proven for the first time. Apparently, we are more likely to vote for someone who moves in ways that appear healthy to us.

The paper in The Quarterly also provides a clear illustration of how we form subconscious conclusions about other people based on how they move.

Psychologists at Bangor University asked people to view short video clips of Barak Obama and John McCain, or Gordon Brown and David Cameron- with the images converted to stick men - representing only the individual's movement and with the sound removed. People rated the 'stick men' for a range of characteristics including attractiveness, trustworthiness, leadership and physical health. They didn't know who the 'stick men' were, but were asked which one they'd vote for.

The outstanding finding was that the majority voted for the person they'd also rated as most healthy - based on clips of only nine seconds in length. The link between perceived health and voting pattern was far stronger than between and voting.

In an experiment run before the US presidential elections, 63% of those taking part voted for the unidentified 'Obama stick-man' (Obama won 52.7% of the popular votes), In the Brown-Cameron 'stick man run-off', there was no clear majority. This may be because the group as a whole rated both Brown and Cameron equally healthy, based on the clips selected.

The important finding is the link established between the candidate subconsciously perceived as the healthiest and the person's subsequent voting choice.

The paper's lead author, doctoral student Robin Kramer of Bangor University's School of Psychology explains: "It's our opinion about how healthy another person is that influences our voting choice."

Barack Obama

John McCain
Gordon Brown
David Cameron
The video above is an example from Bangor’s new motion tracking system. This system records the motion of tracking points in 3D space.
"Our experiments focused on very short clips of each speaker. Removing appearance and using solely movement, we were still able to ask participants about their perception of the candidates. In real life people would many more opportunities to see and hear candidates. They'd be taking on other already established influencing factors such as how the candidates sound and dress, as well as considering the policies and parties involved."

"Our results further emphasise that important decisions, like who we vote for, can be influenced by feelings we may be unaware of. Whether a politician appears to be healthy and vital may be completely irrelevant to what they would do in office, yet that appearance may still grab our ," added co-author, Dr Robert Ward, of the Bangor University's School of Psychology.

Explore further: Implicit political attitudes can predict future voting behavior

More information: The paper can be read online here.

Related Stories

Visual Imagery Technique Boosts Voting, Study Finds

October 19, 2006

Registered voters who used a simple visual imagery technique the evening before the 2004 election were significantly more likely to vote the next day, a new study found. It was all a matter of the visual perspective people ...

Electronic voting system tested by Newcastle University

May 14, 2008

An electronic vote capture and counting system, designed to overcome the problems which have dogged computerised voting systems throughout the world, notably the touch screen voting machines in the US and pilot schemes run ...

College students vote smarter than expected

October 1, 2009

College students make strategic choices about where to vote, most prefer absentee ballots, and they are especially likely to vote absentee if their homes are in swing states, according to a new Northwestern University study ...

Recommended for you

Study reveals patterns in STEM grades of girls versus boys

September 25, 2018

A new study, led by UNSW Sydney Ph.D. student Rose O'Dea, has explored patterns in academic grades of 1.6 million students, showing that girls and boys perform very similarly in STEM—including at the top of the class.

Chinese Cretaceous fossil highlights avian evolution

September 24, 2018

A newly identified extinct bird species from a 127 million-year-old fossil deposit in northeastern China provides new information about avian development during the early evolution of flight.

Ancient mice discovered by climate cavers

September 24, 2018

The fossils of two extinct mice species have been discovered in caves in tropical Queensland by University of Queensland scientists tracking environment changes.

The first predators and their self-repairing teeth

September 24, 2018

The earliest predators appeared on Earth 480 million years ago—and they even had teeth capable of repairing themselves. A team of palaeontologists led by Bryan Shirley and Madleen Grohganz from the Chair for Palaeoenviromental ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.