Visual processing associated with making judgments of political affiliation : an eye-tracking study

WCU Author/Contributor (non-WCU co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Kimberlee Alane Cooper (Creator)
Western Carolina University (WCU )
Web Site:
Leonardo Bobadilla

Abstract: This study assessed whether differences exist in the way females, males, and people with opposing political partisanships focus their visual attention during evaluations of politicians’ facial images. Eye movements were recorded while eighty four participants (34 males, 50 females) viewed ten images of politicians and were asked to determine levels of competence and attractiveness, political party, and the likelihood of voting for the candidate. Their visual attention was measured with the number and duration of fixations to four facial areas of interest (AOIs), including each eye, nose, and mouth. This study indicates groups separated by sex and opposing political partisanships use dissimilar visual processes when cognitively assessing images of politicians. Analysis of the visual scan paths indicate males held fixation durations on noses significantly longer than females (p < .05). Females showed a trend in evaluating eyes and took significantly more time to fixate on candidates’ noses (p < .05). Democratic participants also spent more time evaluating noses (p < .05) when compared to Republican participants. Results also indicated that voters’ higher ratings of competence and attractiveness correlate with the likelihood of voting for a candidate. This research provides support demonstrating that people use cognitive and visual processing skills to extrapolate nonverbal cues to facilitate in judging images of politicians.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2013
Decision Making, Eye Tracking, Political Affiliation, Visual Processing
Visual communication -- United States -- Case studies
Cognitive psychology -- Political aspects -- United States -- Case studies
Voting -- United States -- Psychological aspects -- Case studies
Party affiliation -- United States -- Psychological aspects -- Case studies
Voting research -- United States

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