Do liberals and conservatives have different facial features?

Just inspired by this thread, which implored me to look up images of John Boehner. The instant I saw this guy’s picture, I knew he was a conservative. It was immediately apparent to me-- the weirdly vacant eyes, the neatly molded hair, and what to me seems like a near-universal feature of conservatives, the curled upper lip. Of course, these might be stereotypes, or worse, examples of confirmation bias. But are there any studies (informal or formal) that suggest that conservatives and liberals have different facial features? Any ‘guess the ideology’ sites online?


No one is “born” a conservative or a liberal. That is learned behavior. Granted, some learned behavior like smoking or heavy drinking will have an impact on one’s appearance, but political philosophy is not one of them.

Sorry, but this is kind of ridiculous.

Do you have a cite for this? Believe it or not, I’m not convinced that this is true. I’m sure there are environmental factors, but I’m not sure it’s 100% learned behavior. Many conservatives would probably argue that being homosexual is a learned behavior as well, but there is evidence [PDF] that it is not, and that homosexuals are more likely to have certain body features. I think it is entirely possible that people may have a genetic predisposition to conservatism. If you begin thinking in terms of evolutionary psychology, you might find a reason for this; from there, it’s not hard to believe that there may be a correlation to certain other genetic features. Or perhaps, like the article linked to suggests, maybe something happens in the womb.

I suspect this is a perception issue. I tend to find liberals ugly and conservatives good looking, but this is probably because I am predisposed to believe that. I imagine others might fall prey to this same tendency.

It’s obvious: Liberals have horns while conservatives have tails.

Or is it the other way around? I always get them mixed up.

It is very easy to overstate the importance of the digit ratio studies. Couple that with another one of pop science’s latest memes–evolutionary psychology–and you’re well on your way to pseudoscience.

Also, can you believe that one can get elected to Congress without knowing how to spell one’s own last name.

This sounds unlikely to me, but plenty of things that are actually true appear unlikely to me :slight_smile:

If I was to speculate, I could see family playing a part of this: if you live in a conservative area and marry within conservative circles you may have a distinct gene pool, likewise if you live in a liberal area and marry within liberal circles. I’m not sure if the time the United States has been around is long enough for this to have taken effect, but it also could be caused by which European countries originally settled which areas.

I do know what you mean by John Boehner, but I am not sure what it is that makes this so. It could just be a bias on my part (but then an interesting question is what causes this bias, since it appears to be shared by others too). That said, I think John Edwards looks like a conservative too for the same reasons, but clearly that is wrong.

Uhhh, WTF? First of all, you’ve not linked to any information that suggests that either of these are not credible, and neither have you explained why. It seems like you’re just trying to use the association fallacy and slippery slope arguments to invalidate the possibility of a legitimate connection between appearance and political orientation.

Please read this article on the digit-ratio and tell me it has not been discredited.

Moreover, both things I mentioned are concepts that have appeared in peer-reviewed journals. There may be debate about them, but as far as I can tell, they do not qualify for out-of-hand “pseudoscience” dismissals. So if you have special information, I urge you to bring it up.

EDIT: I can’t believe I have to say this, but a wikipedia page on palmistry does not qualify as a legitimate rebuttal. Comment specifically on the connection between homosexuality and finger length; a cite from a peer-reviewed journal would be more appropriate.

“Might be”? Might be? Hahahahhaahahahaha! :slight_smile:

I know you referred to the facial features making you ‘instantly aware’ that Boehner is a conservative. But there are other possible explanations:

a) You already knew he was conservative (confirmation bias), so of course his facial features seem conservative.
b) other aspects of his appearance are more in line with your idea of ‘conservative’ - for example his haircut, his tie, whatever. This in turn makes his face seem ‘conservative’.

Right, I acknowledged the possibility of both of these. But see this peer-reviewed article, which suggests that people can identify homosexuals by appearance. Another one here. Also, here is a Scientific American article about it. Do the people in these studies have prior knowledge? Are they just stereotyping? Or is there more to it?

This is a style, not a facial feature. Conservatives and liberals do affect different styles of dress and grooming. You’d have to control for that before you could figure out if there are phenotypic differences.

This study finds that 50% of political attachment is hereditary. It is possible that this difference is reflected in appearance and some people could pick up on the difference, but confimation bias is the more likely answer.

Thanks. This should suggest that my assertion that there may be a link is not completely ridiculous.

Well, there is some amount of evidence, vis a vis identical twin studies which would seem to indicate that at least some preferences are at least partially phenotopic, fundamentally. So, it’s not entirely out of the question.

I haven’t found the source study yet, but read about this one recently. I do know that it used only 46 participants, so add salt to taste.

At any rate, I don’t think it’s a ludicrous idea. While generalizations always fall down if applied specifically, I do picture conservatives as tending to be fuller of face, and redder of countenance. This could just be because there are so few vegetarians relatively speaking among the Conservatives vs the Liberals.

As to your second question, there is certainly a difference in hair style and clothing. The GOP helmet head gets the occasional guffaw in my area. (mostly Liberal, just outside DC.) What I find interesting is that this seems to be true in other countries as well.

What clothing style/grooming traits do you see as conservative vs liberal? Do they apply across international boundaries?