Sunday NY Times: A Facial Theory of Politics
The 22 April Sunday New York Times article entitled ‘A facial theory of politics’ bears relevance to Social Role Valorization theory teaching about image enhancement. The article discusses how the personal appearance of candidates for political office has a measurable influence on how people vote.
As taught in SRV and PASSING, one of the aspects or channels of image enhancement is personal appearance. The various elements of personal appearance, individually and in combination (SRV monograph, Wolfensberger, 2004, p. 68; APPEAR Tool, Wolfensberger, 2009, p. 15) do influence social perception, how we perceive other people. The article reported on a series of studies looking at what appearance factors contributed to a perception that someone is ‘more able,’ as this could have a bearing on voting. What appearance factors contributed to a perception of ability? From the article:
“… for example, eyes with more curvature on the top than the bottom; hair that is short and parted on the side or combed back; a hairline that comes to a slight widow’s peak; a broad or round face; and a smile.”
This quote highlights some things we cannot typically control (e.g., eye shape) but also some simple things we can influence (e.g., hair style, a smile).
Our perceptions of others lead us to make judgments about these others, including about their personal qualities. From the article:
“The photos were not of actual candidates but of models (all white males dressed in coat and tie) whose visages, in a prior survey with different volunteers, had been given either high or low marks with regard to perceived qualities like integrity, competence and leadership ability.”
A person’s image will affect how others perceive the person, positively or negatively, and thus can influence whether others will offer that person socially valued roles, positive opportunities for growth and learning, greater access to the ‘good things of life,’ etc. (SRV monograph, Wolfensberger, 2004, p. 62; APPEAR Tool, Wolfensberger, 2009, pp. 17, 23). From the article:
“It turns out that a candidate’s appearance — not beauty, but a look of competence — can generate a far greater vote swing than we previously thought. Furthermore, this effect is not only powerful but also subliminal. Few of us believe that appearance determines our vote, yet for a significant number of us, it may.”
Personal appearance does affect how others perceive and treat a person. As service workers, family, friend or informal helper, we can support socially devalued people, including children and adults with impairments, to have a more positive personal appearance, consistent with the societal values of their culture, their social role, the physical and social environment, etc. Thankfully, we do not even have to have the deep resources of political handlers to do so!
In: Uncategorized · Tagged with: APPEAR, image communicators, image enhancement, PASSING, personal appearance, SRV