Polling the Face: Prediction and Consensus Across Cultures

Nicholas O. Rule, Nalini Ambady, Reginald B. Adams, Hiroki Ozono, Satoshi Nakashima, Sakiko Yoshikawa, Motoki Watabe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

156 Scopus citations


Previous work has shown that individuals agree across cultures on the traits that they infer from faces. Previous work has also shown that inferences from faces can be predictive of important outcomes within cultures. The current research merges these two lines of work. In a series of cross-cultural studies, the authors asked American and Japanese participants to provide naïve inferences of traits from the faces of U.S. political candidates (Studies 1 and 3) and Japanese political candidates (Studies 2 and 4). Perceivers showed high agreement in their ratings of the faces, regardless of culture, and both sets of judgments were predictive of an important ecological outcome (the percentage of votes that each candidate received in the actual election). The traits predicting electoral success differed, however, depending on the targets' culture. Thus, when American and Japanese participants were asked to provide explicit inferences of how likely each candidate would be to win an election (Studies 3-4), judgments were predictive only for same-culture candidates. Attempts to infer the electoral success for the foreign culture showed evidence of self-projection. Therefore, perceivers can reliably infer predictive information from faces but require knowledge about the target's culture to make these predictions accurately.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-15
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Personality and Social Psychology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2010

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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