Perceptions of others' political affiliation are moderated by individual perceivers' own political attitudes

John Paul Wilson, Nicholas O. Rule

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Previous research has shown that perceivers can accurately extract information about perceptually ambiguous group memberships from facial information alone. For example, people demonstrate above-chance accuracy in categorizing political ideology from faces. Further, they ascribe particular personality traits to faces according to political party (e.g., Republicans are dominant and mature, Democrats are likeable and trustworthy). Here, we report three studies that replicated and extended these effects. In Study 1a, we provide evidence that, in addition to showing accuracy in categorization, politically-conservative participants expressed a bias toward categorizing targets as outgroup members. In Study 1b, we replicate this relationship with a larger sample and a stimulus set consisting of faces of professional politicians. In Study 2, we find that trait ascriptions based on target political affiliation are moderated by perceiver political ideology. Specifically, although Democrats are stereotyped as more likeable and trustworthy, conservative participants rated faces that were categorized as Republicans in Study 1a as more likeable and trustworthy than faces categorized as Democrats. Thus, this paper joins a growing literature showing that it is critical to consider perceiver identity in examining perceptions of identities and traits from faces.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere95431
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number4
StatePublished - 29 Apr 2014


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