Preference for leaders with high and low facial width-to-height ratios: moderating roles of political ideology and voting context
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Banai Analitika, Osijek, Croatia
Department of Psychology, University of Zadar, Zadar, Croatia
Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, J. J. Strossmayer University of Osijek, Osijek, Croatia
Irena Pavela Banai   

Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, J. J. Strossmayer University of Osijek
Submission date: 2021-11-18
Final revision date: 2022-02-11
Acceptance date: 2022-06-28
Online publication date: 2022-11-09
Publication date: 2022-10-27
It has been argued that human ancestors evolved greater sensitivity to certain traits that signal dominance in poten-tial leaders. From this perspective, modern voters still favor certain physical characteristics during political elections. Indeed, previous studies have shown that voters prefer dominant candidates, especially when primed with wartime scenarios, and with conservative voters being more likely to choose a dominant leader. Because facial width-to-height ratio (fWHR) was found to be positively associated with perceived dominance, we sought to investigate the effect of fWHR on leader preference by taking into an account voting context and voters’ political ideology.

Participants and procedure:
A total of 148 participants took part in two online experiments in which we manipulated standardized facial images to represent faces with low and high fWHR. Furthermore, we assessed participants’ political ideology and asked them to rate the extent to which faces with low and high fWHR looked like leaders during wartime and peacetime scenarios.

Preference for leaders with high fWHR was positively related to participants’ political ideology, but only in a wartime scenario, suggesting that the more conservative participants were, the higher was their preference for leaders with high fWHR. This is consistent with the notion that preferences for dominant-looking leaders vary as a function of the contextual (voting context) and individual differences (political ideology).

The present findings provide new evidence for the contribution of fWHR in leader preference and significantly adds to the results of previous research demonstrating the roles of voters’ political ideology and politicians’ physical char-acteristics in perceiving leadership abilities.

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