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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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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

Ukraine Is Turning Into A "New Israel" — Where Everyone Is A Soldier

From businessmen to farmers, Ukrainian society has been militarizing for the past six months to defend its sovereignty. In the future it may find itself like Israel, permanently armed to protect its sovereignty.

Ukrainian civilians learn how to shoot and other military skills at a shooting range in Lviv on July 30, 2022.

Guillaume Ptak

KYIV — The war in Ukraine has reached a turning point. Vladimir Putin's army has suffered its worst setback since the beginning of the invasion. The Russian army has experienced a counter-offensive that many experts consider masterful, so it must retreat and cede vast territories to its opponent.

The lightning victory that the head of the Kremlin had dreamed of never took place. The losses are considerable — Ukrainian troops on the battlefield now outnumber the Russians.

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On April 5, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky predicted that at the end of the conflict, Ukraine would become a "big Israel". In an interview with Ukrainian media, he said then, "In all the institutions, supermarkets, cinemas, there will be people with weapons."

The problem of national security will be the country's most important one in the next decade. An "absolutely liberal, and European" society would therefore no longer be on the agenda, according to the Ukrainian president.

Having long since swapped his suit and tie for a jacket or a khaki T-shirt during his public appearances, Zelensky has undeniably become one of the symbols of this growing militarization of Ukrainian society. However, the president claimed that Ukraine would not become an "authoritarian" regime: "An authoritarian state would lose to Russia. Ukrainians know what they are fighting for."

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