The eyes (and ears, and beard) have it

Boston Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley has the inside track to be elected pope, according to the preliminary analysis of how people reacted to the faces of likely candidates among the cardinals. Yep, their faces alone.

A pair of psychology associate professors from the College of William & Mary in Virginia — Peter M. Vishton and Jennifer A. Stevens — pulled together what was cautiously labeled “Brief technical report — working document — draft” of how study participants reacted to photos of 20 likely contenders for the papacy. They concluded that Cardinal O’Malley will be the next pope.

The cautiously worded preliminary report analyzed the reactions to the photos by 557 participants, who were recruited via something called Amazon Mechanical Turk and paid 20 cents for their participation. Curiously, the participants hardly reflect the demographics of the cardinal electors.

“137 self-identified as Christian; 237 self-identified as Hindu; 169 of the participants self-identified as being from North America; 337 self-identified as being from Asia.”

The unusual approach is based on the principle that although the electors will consider a wide range of skills, personal characteristics, qualifications and geopolitical angles, they also will be influenced by the facial features of the candidates.

“This study explores the prediction that the unconscious assessment of face appearance will strongly, unconsciously affect their selection.”

The report said one reason they chose to study the papal election is that the electors constitute a closed group of highly educated, experienced, senior leaders. If their prediction turns out to be accurate, the pair said:
“It would suggest that the power of a face to drive decisions is truly powerful.”
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2 Responses to The eyes (and ears, and beard) have it

  1. Duane Lamers says:

    An interesting insight. However, it must come face to face with some other facts, among them America’s superpower status and the negatives associated with that fact, and the growth in the Church that is being experienced in other continents compared to the decline here and in Europe.

    It is also true, though, that Americans are perceived as the “how to” people, and that the Vatican needs some management.

  2. Oh stop it!! Analysis outside of the Conclave is ridiculous. Wait, and let’s see what the Holy Spirit has inspired.

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