An Examination of the Effects of Obesity and Gender on Candidate Evaluation Using Subjective and Objective Physiological Methods
29 Pages Posted: 1 Aug 2011 Last revised: 17 Jan 2014
Date Written: 2011
Political researchers have identified several factors that are critical to understanding the way in which individuals evaluate political candidates. Much of this research focuses on non-physical characteristics: issue positions (e.g., the War in Iraq or abortion), party affiliation, and background information about the candidate (e.g., prior political experience, education, etc.). A growing body of research considers the role of physical appearance in candidate evaluation, but this research has not focused on candidate weight. This is surprising given the extensive research in psychology demonstrating that obese individuals are evaluated negatively and attributed negative trait characteristics in several contexts including education and employment. The purpose of the present study was to assess the degree and nature of obesity bias against political candidates using both subjective (self-report) and objective (startle eye blink) assessment methods. To do so, we manipulated the obesity and gender of hypothetical candidates both descriptively and by morphing the photographs of the candidates. We then examined the effect of this manipulation on subjective and objective measures of candidate affect.
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