A picture is worth a thousand biased words

A featured story on Wednesday's MSN's homepage relates a "scientific" study conducted by Tufts University as reported by Good.is. In it we learn that students were able to guess a political candidate's party affiliation merely by looking at photographs of the candidates. What formed the basis of the report's conclusions?
Republicans' faces tended to score higher on a measure of "power," based on how dominant and mature they looked. Democrats' faces scored higher for "warmth," as based on their perceived likeability and trustworthiness.

(By the way, the story features a photograph of an apparently enraged and bellowing Rush Limbaugh. This writer does not recall Mr. Limbaugh ever standing for public office.)

It is interesting to note that during the 19th and early 20th centuries, the pseudoscience of phrenology was used to incarcerate/institutionalize Americans who suffered from mental illnesses and mental retardation. Phrenologists believed that they could establish a person's character/ability based on the existence and location of 27 bumps on the skull of an individual. Implicit in the Tufts study is the idea that we no longer have to palpate cranial bumps to discern a person's character; we need only look at their picture.

But that raises an intriguing premise of the analysis. Participants in the study were not shown pictures of "racial minority" candidates because that might have prejudiced the participants' responses: "People might think a black candidate had to be a Democrat."

WOW! No built-in bias in this study.

Phrenology. Eugenics. Progressivism. Fascism. Space does not permit this author to connect all the dots. No need to; the Tufts study demonstrates that we need only to look at a picture, so don't worry about it.


A featured story on Wednesday's MSN's homepage relates a "scientific" study conducted by Tufts University as reported by Good.is. In it we learn that students were able to guess a political candidate's party affiliation merely by looking at photographs of the candidates. What formed the basis of the report's conclusions?

Republicans' faces tended to score higher on a measure of "power," based on how dominant and mature they looked. Democrats' faces scored higher for "warmth," as based on their perceived likeability and trustworthiness.

(By the way, the story features a photograph of an apparently enraged and bellowing Rush Limbaugh. This writer does not recall Mr. Limbaugh ever standing for public office.)

It is interesting to note that during the 19th and early 20th centuries, the pseudoscience of phrenology was used to incarcerate/institutionalize Americans who suffered from mental illnesses and mental retardation. Phrenologists believed that they could establish a person's character/ability based on the existence and location of 27 bumps on the skull of an individual. Implicit in the Tufts study is the idea that we no longer have to palpate cranial bumps to discern a person's character; we need only look at their picture.

But that raises an intriguing premise of the analysis. Participants in the study were not shown pictures of "racial minority" candidates because that might have prejudiced the participants' responses: "People might think a black candidate had to be a Democrat."

WOW! No built-in bias in this study.

Phrenology. Eugenics. Progressivism. Fascism. Space does not permit this author to connect all the dots. No need to; the Tufts study demonstrates that we need only to look at a picture, so don't worry about it.


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