EL ESPECTADOR

What Voters Read In A Candidate's Face

Researchers used visuals and scanning technology to gauge how people 'feel' about the contenders in Colombia's current presidential election.

Current Colombian President Santos
Current Colombian President Santos
Germán Gómez Polo

BOGOTÁ — Can voters be swayed by a candidate's face? If they're young and undecided, then yes, researchers in Colombia have found.

Psychologist Henry Castillo Parram, in collaboration with the firm Neuromind, selected 180 eligible voters from Bogotá and Medellín, all aged 18-24, and showed them pictures of the five main candidates for the country's recent first-round of presidential election, on May 27.

The candidates include leftist former mayor of Bogotá Gustavo Petro, Humberto de la Calle, a veteran official who led peace talks with the FARC guerrillas, former Medellín mayor Sergio Fajardo, and the centrist Germán Vargas Lleras. (By Monday, the election appeared set for a tight run-off next month in the race to succeed departing President Juan Manuel Santos.)

Researchers showed a random selection of images of the candidates — in mosaics, black and white, or color — and used eye tracking and face reading technologies to scan the subjects' reactions.

"The human brain is sensitive to human faces," says Castillo. "It is genetically coded for that. So when people have not yet defined their vote and do not know about proposals, they rely on biological and automatic criteria caught by the brain." Facial symmetry, he adds, generates hormones that can prompt "emotional attachment."

It is genetically coded for that.

The scans identified seven feelings among respondents: happiness, sadness, wrath, surprise, fear, distaste and contempt. Fajardo, who worked as mayor to make Medellín more user-friendly, generated a 23.7 happiness score out of 100 (compared to 7.9 for Vargas Lleras). Fajardo also scored well in terms of generating trust, with 25/100.

The subjects found de la Calle to be the most "depressing" of the candidates, with a 43.4 sadness score, and Petro the least. A no-nonsense socialist, Petro is doing well in polls in spite of his troubled spell as mayor.

Humberto de la Calle — Photo: El Espectador

The "establishment" candidates Vargas Lleras and de la Calle fared worst over all in the facial tracking study. "Vargas Lleras earned the most negative scores from the emotional aspect," says Castillo. Both candidates, he adds, failed to "activate the neurons' of the young would-be voters.

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Society

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The exhibition “Electro” in Düsseldorf is an unlikely tribute to a joyful and uninhibited club culture, with curators forced to contend with limits of a museum setting ... and another COVID lockdown.

A woman with a "Techno" tattoo in front of the famous Berghain

Boris Pofalla

DÜSSELDORF — The last party at the Berghain nightclub in Berlin lasted from Saturday evening until Monday morning. On the first weekend of December, some clubbers lined up for nine hours outside the former power plant – and still didn’t make it past the doormen. A friend said that dancing in the most famous techno club in the world on its last evening was like landing a spot in the last lifeboat to leave the sinking Titanic on 14 April 1912.

It is surely a coincidence that the first comprehensive exhibition charting the 100-year history of electronic music in Germany opened in the same week that nightclubs across the country were forced to close. It wasn’t planned that way, but it’s like opening an exhibition about the cultural history of alcohol the day after the introduction of prohibition.

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