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更新时间:2017/11/13 19:35:33 来源:本站原创 作者:佚名

The hidden ways that faces shape politics

George Washington knew it. He was particularly conscious of his forehead, which he believed would look better if it was even bigger. For maximum emphasis he’d pull his hair back into a tight ponytail – then finish the powerful, masculine look with ringlets of curls and a ribbon.

乔治·华盛顿(George Washington)对外貌有着什么样的影响非常明白。他特别在意自己的额头,他相信如果自己额头更大一些会使得外表显得更为出色。他对此特别注意,因此极力把他的头发向后拉紧绑成一个马尾——最终与长发卷和发带共同组成强力阳刚的造型。

Abraham Lincoln knew it too. The public delighted in mocking his face, which was unusually angular and asymmetric. Though he’s remembered as one of America’s greatest presidents, at the time he was deeply unpopular. He was as ugly as a scarecrow, they said. He was ungainly and cadaverous, they said. Eventually even the man who sculpted his likeness at Mount Rushmore joined in, saying his face was “primitive” and “unfurnished”.

亚伯拉罕·林肯(Abraham Lincoln)对此也深有体会。公众喜欢嘲讽他那棱角异乎寻常而不对称的面孔。虽然作为美国最伟大的总统之一为人们所铭记,但在当时他却不得人心。他们说他像稻草人一样丑陋,说他举止笨拙而面色惨白。最终连那位在拉什莫尔山(Mount Rushmore)为他雕像的人也加入其中,说他的脸显得"原始"而"未经修饰"。

We tell ourselves that what we really want from our politicians is competence, a dash of charisma and a bucket load of sensible ideas. But that might be a tad optimistic. Evidence suggests that the facial appearance of a politician significantly shapes voting decisions – and we often may not even realise it is happening.


Psychologists have known for years that first impressions play a far bigger role in our lives than we’d like to think. For example, we can’t help suspecting that those with doe eyes and pudgy lips are trustworthy souls, while those with wider faces have a tendency for aggression.


The judgements are involuntary, unconscious and happen at frightening speed: some are made in as little as 33 thousandths of a second, which is barely enough time to register what you’re looking at. “In our studies people say ‘this is ridiculous, I barely saw that was a face’,” says Alexander Todorov, a psychologist from the Princeton University and leading expert in the subject.

这种判断是不自觉地,在无意识间以可怕的速度发生:有些是在短短的千分之33秒之内,这让我们几乎没有足够的时间记下所看到的东西。"在我们的研究中,人们会说'这太荒谬了,我几乎都没看到那是一张脸'",普林斯顿大学(Princeton University)心理学家,业内顶级专家亚历山大·托多罗夫(Alexander Todorov)说道。

These “thin slice” character judgements are based on the slimmest of clues. And yet they have far-reaching implications, from where you work to who you marry. Naturally, we expect CEOs and military personnel to look dominant, while those in caring professions should be baby-faced.


If you’re born with the right aesthetic, you’re more likely to be hired in the first place and may find it easier to rise through the ranks. On the other hand the wrong face – such as one that looks serious if you’re dating or stereotypically criminal in court – could blight your romantic prospects or even land you in jail.


But perhaps the most uneasy finding of all is how these snap judgements and prejudices shape politics. The science is not quite 40 years old, but the sheer weight of evidence is overwhelming. Though voters tend to have rational ideas about what makes a good leader – “The characteristic that always wins is competence,” says Todorov – the way these qualities are assessed is spectacularly reckless. In the end we discern it from the candidate’s face.


The effect is so powerful, psychologists have correctly predicted the outcome of elections in the US, Bulgaria, France, Australia, Mexico, Finland and Japan, and the share of votes in US Senate, House of Representatives and gubernatorial elections using this characteristic alone.


For these studies, participants weren’t told anything about the candidates – just shown a photograph of their head and shoulders and asked to rate their competence. The method can even be used to predict the results of elections in foreign countries – and works whether you ask 90-year-olds or five-year-old children.


“There are a lot of great candidates out there who have a much lower chance of being elected because of their appearance. It’s probably not good for democracy,” says Gabriel Lenz, a political scientist from the University of California, Berkeley. How has this happened? Should we be worried? And what can we do about it?

"有很多很棒的候选人,由于他们的外表,他们当选的可能性则要小得多。这可能对民主很不利,"来自加州大学伯克利分校的政治学家加布里尔·兰茨(Gabriel Lenz)说。这是怎么发生的?我们应该担心吗?我们能做些什么呢?

The idea that facial appearance can influence how a population sees its leaders actually dates back thousands of years. In ancient times it was called the art of “physiognomy”, the belief that a person’s character can be judged from their face.


In Eastern cultures it was taken very seriously indeed. One Chinese king, Jianzi of Zhao, believed the face was as good a way as any to assess his grown sons as potential heirs. In particular, a noble pair of earlobes was considered auspicious. Historical documents from China boast of emperors with lobes so long, they dangled down to brush their shoulders. The preference even made its way into religious iconography: statues of Buddha are depicted with drooping lobes to this day.


The Persians were more into noses. It began with the founder of the Achaemenian Empire, Cyrus the Great. His notable nose was long, curved and sharp, and set the royal standard for generations. Honours were only bestowed upon those with the curved, beak-y kind and young men would pinch theirs with bandages in the hope of coaxing it to grow that way.

波斯人更偏爱鼻子。这始于阿契美尼德王朝(Achaemenian Empire)的奠基人居鲁士大帝(Cyrus the Great)。他那突出的长鼻子,又弯又尖,为几代人树立了皇家的标准。荣耀只会给予那些长着鹰钩鼻的人,而年轻的男性会用绷带捏挤他们的鼻子,希望迫使它们长成这个样子。

By the 18th Century, physiognomy had become something of a pseudoscience. The Swiss pastor Johann Lavater analysed thousands of faces to narrow down the features that were linked to certain dispositions. In his bestselling book, Physiognomischen Fragmente, he laid out a hundred systematic rules, many of which would later be disproven. Suddenly workers, neighbours and politicians could be favoured or rejected not just on their social class and wealth, but their facial features too.

到十八世纪,面相学已经成为一门伪科学。瑞士牧师约翰·拉瓦特(Johann Lavater)分析了数千个面相,以便提取出与某种性格特征相关联的面部特征。在他的畅销作品《面相学集萃》(Physiognomischen Fragmente)一书中,他提出了一百条系统性的规则,不过其中许多后来被推翻。突然间,工人、邻居和政客们不仅由于他们的社会阶级和财富,也可能因为他们的面部特征而被喜爱或受到排斥。

Across the globe, looking presidential became crucial to being taken seriously. Portraits of president George Washington were altered to enhance the arch of his forehead, while artists lamented not preserving Benjamin Franklin’s corpse for public view – the masses really needed to see his exemplary physiognomy for themselves.


Today’s politicians are no less image conscious. In Washington DC, business for plastic surgeons and dermatologists is booming; this is a place where faces seem to wrinkle at an unnaturally slow pace. It’s even been used as a political weapon. Back in 2004, Ukrainian presidential candidate Victor Yushchenko developed chloracne, pustules and lesions associated with over-exposure to the toxic chemical dioxin. Tests revealed the level in his blood was 6,000 times above normal; he alleged that he had been poisoned.

今天的政治家们的形象意识丝毫未减。在华盛顿,整形外科和皮肤科医生们生意兴隆;这是一个外貌衰老的速度慢到不自然的地方。它甚至被用来作为政治武器。回到2004年,乌克兰总统候选人维克托·尤先科(Victor Yushchenko)得了氯痤疮症(chloracne,一种由氯化烃类引起的皮疹),身上的脓疱和病变与过度接触有毒化学物质二恶英(dioxin)有关。检测显示他血液中的二恶英浓度比正常水平高出6000倍;他声称自己被下了毒。

While these modern politicians might not be using debunked physiognomy to guide them, they are probably right to be image-conscious. Though our first impressions are usually wrong, we almost always agree on them. “There’s something very reliable about these judgements,” says Jon Freeman, a psychologist at New York University. “They’re consistent across thousands of people.”

而这些现代政客们可能不会用已经被驳斥的面相学来指导自己,他们可能就是注重自己的形象。虽然我们的第一印象通常是错误的,但我们几乎总是在第一印象上出奇的一致。纽约大学心理学家约翰·弗里曼(Jon Freeman)说:"这些判断中有些部分是非常可靠的,成千上万的人都有同样的想法。"

The bias favours politicians who appear competent, but also reliable, older, attractive and familiar. In an election, candidates with this countenance tend to win with a wider margin of victory. Many of these features are self-explanatory, but what exactly a competent face looks like exactly is harder to pin down.


“In an ideal world you would randomly assign some candidates to have plastic surgery and go from there,” says Lenz. However, a slightly less invasive way to look for clues is to make one artificially. Back in 2010, together with Christopher Olivola from Carnegie Mellon University, Todorov did exactly that. The plan was to create a batch of extremely-competent looking faces and see what kind of features they ended up with.

"假设在一个理想的世界,你可以随机挑一些候选人去做整形手术,那就可以看看到底怎么回事,"兰茨说。一种稍微不那么有唐突的测试的方法就是人为制造一个面孔。托多罗夫与卡内基梅隆大学(Carnegie Mellon University)的克里斯托弗·奥利维拉(Christopher Olivola)在2010年做了一项实验。这项计划就是要创造一批看上去具有卓越能力的面孔,看看他们最终的特点是什么。

To set up the experiment, first they taught a computer what a strong leader looks like by randomly generating faces and asking volunteers to rate how able they looked. Then they used this knowledge to create a range of faces, some of which had been enhanced to look hyper-competent.


As the attribute increased, they underwent a radical transformation: the gap between the eyebrows and the eyes shrank, faces became less round, cheekbones became more pronounced, and jaws became more angular. The competent faces were the most attractive, mature and masculine. “It’s a bit disturbing because you can see that it’s gender biased. It’s essentially a male face that people want. The face which is incompetent is a female face,” says Todorov.


Are these preferences hardwired from birth – or are they learnt? It’s a mystery that has been hotly debated for years, partly because it’s very difficult to study. It’s not like scientists can lock babies away from the outside world and ask them what kind of leaders they prefer when they grow up – though similar experiments have been performed in monkeys. A consensus is emerging, however.


“I tend to favour a more cultural association,” says Freeman. He’s spent years studying snap judgements and the hidden ways they lead to sexism in politics. “I think there’s much more evidence that our ideas about gender and competence reflect perceptions embedded in our culture.”


Take the 115th United States Congress. As BBC Future has discovered, blending together photographs of every single member yields a face that’s good-looking, middle-aged and distinctly masculine. This depressing finding makes a lot of sense when you consider that the current government is 80% male and getting on a bit; the average age is 57.8 years for members of the House and 61.8 for Senators.

以第115届美国国会为例。正如BBC Future所发现的那样,将所有成员的照片叠加在一起,就生成一张已届中年、具备明显阳刚特征的标致面孔。尤其是当你想到目前政府成员中80%是男性并且还上了点年纪的时候,这个令人沮丧的发现就显得非常合理;众议员的平均年龄为57.8岁,而参议员则为61.8岁。

Globally, there are just nine heads of state under 40 and 15 female heads of government or state. No wonder this isn’t how we view competent leaders.


Which brings us to the good news. If our perceptions are learned, they’re likely reversible. “The more women you have in successful leadership positions, the UK being a good example, the more people might change their minds,” says Todorov.


The ground is gradually shifting. Over half of current woman world leaders are the first in the history of that country. And some cultures are way ahead. As of January 2017, Rwanda had the highest number of women parliamentarians, who hold 63.8% of seats in the lower house.


The US government is gradually getting older and Donald Trump was the oldest president when he entered office, at 70 years old. But elsewhere, the public are waking up to the potential of fresh-faced 30-somethings. French President Emmanuel Macron is just 39, while Austria recently elected Europe’s youngest leader, Sebastian Kurz, who is just 31.

美国政府正逐渐变老,唐纳德·特朗普在70岁时就任总统,是美国历史上年纪最大的总统。但在其他地方,公众正在意识到30岁出头的新面孔的潜力。法国总统埃马纽埃尔·马克龙(Emmanuel Macron)年仅39岁,而奥地利新近当选的总理塞巴斯蒂安·库尔茨(Sebastian Kurz)是欧洲最年轻的领导人,年仅31岁。

Some biases are harder to get away from, however. In psychological circles it’s a well-known fact that people tend to develop a liking for things, such as their own face, merely because they are familiar with them. This “mere-exposure-effect” is a potent secret force in everyday life – the very reason companies pour billions into branding and songs become more catchy the hundredth time you hear them.


For a study in the journal Political Psychology, psychologists from Stanford University tried a sneaky experiment. In the run-up to the 2006 Florida gubernatorial election, they conducted a mock election by showing undergraduates photographs of the running candidates and asking who they’d vote for. But the images had been manipulated – they were actually a blend, a 60:40 mashup of the candidates and the unknowing students themselves. Naturally, the students much preferred those who resembled them.

在《政治心理学》(Political Psychology)杂志的一项研究中,来自斯坦福大学的心理学家尝试了一个偷偷摸摸的实验。在佛罗里达州的2006年地方选举前夕,他们进行了一次模拟选举,向大学生展示候选人照片,并问他们会投票给谁。但这些图片被掉包了——实际上按60:40的比例混搭了候选人和无知的学生。结果,自然学生们更喜欢那些和他们相似的人。

It’s notoriously difficult to win an election as an outsider, especially if you’re challenging the incumbent. And since they tend to have the most familiar faces, the bias makes it even harder. Television and other visual media may be making it worse.


Today the average American watches a whopping five hours of television every day. In the build-up to the US presidential poll in 2016, well-meaning voters sat through 110 million hours of politics on YouTube alone and a record 84 million people tuned in to watch the first presidential debate. This unprecedented exposure to our politicians may be having some insidious side-effects, from supercharging the familiarity bias to clouding our judgement of presidential debates.


It’s thought to have been happening since the very first televised debates in the 1960s. As more and more people bought televisions, the margin of victory for incumbents widened.


Besides the familiarity effect, politicians with the most compelling faces are known to benefit disproportionately from television coverage, especially among the least educated voters. “Even if the public try to avoid politics they can’t help being affected,” says Lenz, who co-authored the study.


Todorov describes first impressions of faces as mental shortcuts that help us to make decisions rapidly. The key to fighting back lies in making it easier to learn about the candidates, so that voters can replace shallow decisions with rational ones, and avoiding practices that actively encourage a reliance of snap-judgements. “In some countries they put photographs of the candidates next to their names on the ballot paper,” says Lenz.


Limiting the influence of face-ism in politics is no easy task, but doing so will be a powerful step towards a greater diversity in government and ultimately, a more democratic society. Now that’s something that George Washington can really be proud of. That, and his enormous forehead.