Field of Science

Don't blink, you'll lose the election!

Sarah Palin has been clear on one subject: You can't blink. While people argue about whether this is a good administrative philosophy, there is no actually scientific evidence that it is good campaign strategy.

The International Journal of Psychophysiology recently published an abstract that claims that from 1960-2004, the US presidential candidate who blinked most during the debates got fewer votes than his opponent in every election. For those counting, that is every election which has featured televised debates.

The point of the abstract, interestingly, is not to predict campaign outcomes. The point was to study eyeblinks. Specifically, there are hypotheses about what elevated rates of blinking might suggest, such as a lack of focus or a negative mental state. The question the researchers were asking was whether observers pick up on eyeblink rates and make judgments or predictions based on them. This *might* suggest that they do.

It's important to note that this is a published abstract, not a full paper, so it is difficult to evaluate the methods used, though presumably they involved counting eyeblinks.

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