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Faces: Labour or Conservative?

Red rose Image by Josch13 from Pixabay 320868 Oak tree  Image by cocoparisienne from Pixabay

We can tell a lot about a person by looking at their face, but there is also a lot we think we can tell, but can't. FOr example we often equate beauty with being a nice person. What about politics? Can we tell whether someone is right wing or left wing from their face? A team from UCL and Queen Mary tried to find out.

The team consisting of Tom Roberts, Harry Griffin, Peter McOwan and Alan Johnston, first showed lots of people the faces of MPs and asked whether they were Labour or Conservative. It turned out the people tested couldn't actually reliably tell the political affiliation. Our faces do not say anything about our political beliefs!

The team didn't stop there however. They took the pictures the people chose as being Labour and merged them to create a new computer-generated face that aimed to be representative of what we think a left-winger looks like. They did the same with the Conservative chosen pictures creating an image that matched our perception of a right-winger. These pictures of course, were not what a right or left wing person actually looks like, they were a version of what we think they look like.

Finally, a new group of people, who hadn't been involved in the first part of the study, were asked to judge these new computer-generated images. Which was a Labout person and which a Conservative person? The new people could correctly identify them!

This suggests that we do keep a mental image of what someone with a particular political persuasion looks like, and we may well use it when imagining what MPs from the two parties look like...even though real MPs don't fit our mental stereotype at all.