Face Value: Linking Nonverbal Cues to Character Traits in Impression Formation of Politicians

Danielle Kilgo, Trent R. Boutler, Renita Coleman


This study identifies how audiences use nonverbal cues to judge specific character traits in political figures. Participants assessed pictures that showed the example politician making eye contact with another person with highest scores. His hand positions received the lowest character-trait scores. Findings show that participants associated direct eye contact and smiling with characteristics such as intelligence, good leadership, and caring, but not morality or honesty. In fact, no nonverbal cue affected evaluations of morality. However, those who judged the candidate as moral from nonverbal cues had a greater likelihood of voting for him.


political communication, nonverbal communication, character traits, impression formation

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