Baby-faced Biases

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The Times of London highlights some interesting research about voter preferences:

Psychologists in the United States have discovered that voters tend to judge politicians with more immature features as less competent, and thus tend to favour opponents with a more grown-up appearance.

Baby-faced politicians, it turns out, are out of luck. But hey, maybe voters “gut feelings” aren’t entirely awry; maybe it’s the case that leaders with immature features do tend to be, on average, less competent. After all, in Malcolm Gladwell’s recent book, Blink, the author laments the fact that CEOs tend to be taller than the average person, and concludes that human “heuristics”—short-cuts used to make judgments about people—are leading us astray into groundless biases. But is the “tall CEO” bias necessarily a grave and mortal error? It’s possible, after all, that taller people are, on average, more likely to have grown up being taller than their peers, and hence more confident, more assertive, etc. That’s just a wild guess, but it’s certainly possible.

So what about baby-faced politicians? Well, Alex Tabarrok notes an earlier set of studies by the same researchers showing that “babyfaced men are actually more intelligent, better educated, more assertive and apt to win more military medals than their mature-looking counterparts.” In this case, then, it looks like our heuristics actually are leading us astray, perhaps leading us to choose less competent leaders. Needless to say, that’s not a good thing.

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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