Repository logo

Dictators differ from democratically elected leaders in facial warmth

Faculty Advisor




face perception, leadership, dictators, democrats

Abstract (summary)

Despite the many important considerations relevant to selecting a leader, facial appearance carries surprising sway. Following numerous studies documenting the role of facial appearance in government elections, we investigated differences in perceptions of dictators versus democratically elected leaders. Participants in Study 1 successfully classified pictures of 160 world leaders as democrats or dictators significantly better than chance. Probing what distinguished them, separate participants rated the affect, attractiveness, competence, dominance, facial maturity, likability, and trustworthiness of the leaders’ faces in Study 2. Relating these perceptions to the categorizations made by participants in Study 1 showed that democratically elected leaders looked significantly more attractive and warmer (an average of likability and trustworthiness) than dictators did. Leaders’ facial appearance could therefore contribute to their success within their respective political systems.

Publication Information

Giacomin, M., Mulligan, A., & Rule, N. O. (2021). Dictators differ from democratically elected leaders in facial warmth. Social Psychological and Personality Science, 12, 1216-1224.


Item Type





Attribution (CC BY)