The “Clean for Gene” Phenomenon: The Effect of Students' Appearance on Political Campaigning

John M. Darley, Joel Cooper

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


Field experiments investigated the relationship between a political campaigner's dress and appearance and his campaign effectiveness. In one study deviant, “freaky” appearing campaigners attempting to hand out innocuous leaflets in a shopping center had a lower acceptance rate than did more conventionally dressed campaigners. Those shoppers who did accept leaflets from “freaks” were more likely to throw them away unread. The first experiment suggested that deviant‐appearing campaigners have difficulty communicating information to potential voters, but it was argued that, in another sense, they convey all too much information. Knowing only that the campaigners for one candidate were deviant and “hippy” in appearance as compared to the conventionally dressed campaigners supporting a second candidate, voters in a second experiment were willing to ascribe more radical opinions to the deviants' candidate. Voters then used their inferences as the basis on which to select a candidate. The rationality of inferring beliefs from appearances is discussed in terms of correspondent inference theory.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)24-33
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Applied Social Psychology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 1972

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Psychology


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