, Volume 14, Issue 4, pp 269-283

Hair loss and electability: The bald truth

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Abstract

This study probes one particular component of the well documented linkage between personal appearance and impression formation by investigating the extent to which and the mechanisms through which bald and balding men are underrepresented in high elective office. Study 1 compares the prevalence of hair loss among governors and members of Congress, on the one hand, and the general public, on the other, and concludes that officeholders are much more likely to have a full head of hair than would be expected of men of their age. Study 2 poses an experimental test of voter bias against bald and balding candidates by presenting voters in a simulated congressional race with materials depicting otherwise identical candidates in either their natural bald or balding condition or wearing a professionally fitted hairpiece. No voter bias against bald or balding candidates is apparent, a finding that suggests that the causal mechanism underlying underrepresentation of bald and balding men is not voter bias.

Ugly is a field without grass, a plant without leaves, or a head without hair (Ovid, quoted by Klenhard, 1986, p. 11).
Politics represents an area of public life in which the effects of appearance may lead to very important social consequences and in which the idea of special privilege for the pretty is particularly repellent (Efran and Patterson, 1975, p. 352).
The authors thank Judee Burgoon, Michael Burgoon, and Carol Sigelman for useful comments and suggestions, and Brandt Baker, Henry Ewbank, Jeff Gardner, Henry Kenski, Dan Singer, and David Williams for their assistance with this project.