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Candidates Who Have This Physical Trait Might Have an Edge Over Their Competition

"Explains why politicians and executives often put great effort, time and money in their appearance."

The votes are in but perhaps there was something the winning candidates of the midterm elections had in common: was it a nice healthy glow?

A new study suggests that whether it be a political position or filling the role of CEO, people generally prefer candidates who have healthy complexions over someone who might look more intelligent.

Research led by Brian Spisak with VU University Amsterdam and his colleagues asked 148 men and women to view two photos showing male faces and pick the one they would select for a CEO position.

The photos were actually of the same person but were changed digitally to reflect different traits.nThe man's face was changed to look more or less intelligent based on its shape and to have coloring considered more or less healthy looking.

This image was created by independently manipulated high and low signals of health and intelligence. (Caption and image credit: Spisak, B. et al Front. Aging Neuro) This image was created by independently manipulated high and low signals of health and intelligence. (Caption and image credit: Spisak, B. et al Front. Aging Neuro)

The researchers found that the study participants picked the healthier looking faces 69 percent of the time. Even though they were presented with a job description detailing some of the challenges the CEO might face, the study participants favored the face with better coloring over one that looked more intelligent. 

The only time they frequently chose the more intelligent looking face was when the CEO would have challenges that required more diplomacy and inventiveness, the news release about the research stated.

"Here we show that it always pays for aspiring leaders to look healthy, which explains why politicians and executives often put great effort, time and money in their appearance," Spisak said in a statement. "If you want to be chosen for a leadership position, looking intelligent is an optional extra under context-specific situations whereas the appearance of health appears to be important in a more context-general way across a variety of situations."

Spisak explained to Popular Science that the healthy faces had warmer skin tones while the "sickly" ones were a bit bluer.

Spisak's previous research has looked into whether the age of political candidates is a factor in some elections. He found that during war times, people voted for older candidates more often.

Front page image via Shutterstock.

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