Front pg #1 Headline, National Post, May 27. Great election coverage from Canada's national paper!
Behind blue eyes, our next prime minister
Odds of sharing trait: 1 in 1,000
Thursday, May 27, 2004
The Leaders of the Four Parties Vying in the Federal Election All Have Blue Eyes: Stephen Harper, Paul Martin,Jack Layton and Gilles Duceppe. One expert says he's not surprised the leaders are blue-eyed. "Colour has a profound psychological effect," Dr. Steven Narod says.
The federal leaders of the four major political parties may promote different policies, but they share a singular trait -- blue eyes.
The result of a recessive gene, blue eyes occur in about 20% of Canadians, according to Steven Narod, a genetic researcher at the University of Toronto. That means the probability of four randomly selected Canadians having blue eyes is about 0.16%.
Put another way, the odds of the leaders of the Liberals, Conservatives, NDP and Bloc Quebecois all sporting baby blues are close to one in 1,000.
No hard evidence exists to show that political leaders are more likely to rise to the top if they have blue eyes, but some experts say the shade of one's irises might hold sway with voters. "[Blue eyes] are everything that's good and wholesome. Not to mention attractive and pleasant. I didn't know all the candidates had blue eyes. I think that's good," said Dr. Alan Stanbridge, an assistant professor of visual and performing arts at the University of Toronto.
Dr. Narod said he "wouldn't be surprised" if federal leaders are more likely to have blue eyes.
"Colour has a profound psychological effect, one we're not always aware of."
To illustrate his point, Dr. Narod noted a study published last year in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.
"A woman presents a paper to an audience wearing an outfit with a colour that matches a large poster on the wall beside her. In a parallel experiment, she presents a paper in an outfit where the colour does not match the poster. She then calculates the number of people who approach her, in both circumstances, after the lecture. The response is far greater ... when the dress matches."
Dr. Narod said that result says something about human nature and our reaction to colour.
"Ask those people why they approached the woman and not one would say it was because her dress matched the poster. It's the same with political leaders. Maybe I'd support someone who has blue eyes. Would I say that was the reason? Never. But it may have been an underlying motivator."
But Mary Donohue, an image coach credited with buffing the appearance of another blue-eyed politico -- Toronto Mayor David Miller -- doubts eye colour has any impact at all.
"It's a coincidence. Color doesn't count. What counts is how your eyes communicate," said Ms. Donohue, who provided some sartorial editing on behalf of Mr. Miller in the recent CBC documentary Campaign, a film about his successful mayoral bid.
Marketers have for years manipulated the colour spectrum to sell products, with blue being a desired colour.
"Blue, when it is bright, can be very intense," said Anne Sowden of Here's Looking at You Image Consulting.
"That intensity is going to shine through. Which might explain how [a politician] rose up the ranks in the first place."
Dr. Stanbridge, however, noted there are exceptions to the blue-eyes-equal-goodness equation -- something that voters might want to consider.
He underscores his point with movie lore about Sergio Leone's Once Upon a Time in the West.
"You may recall Henry Fonda's piercing blue eyes juxtaposed against Leone's whitewashed screen -- just before he kills the nine-year-old boy. Fonda had apparently expressed his concern to Leone about his wholesome image, in particular, those trustful blue eyes. Apparently Leone didn't have a problem at all with the fact that blue eyes could be associated with an evil character.
"Now what that says about our four candidates, I'll leave that up to you."