Does Miss Kaptur (D., Toledo
) possess more of these qualities than Gov. Bob Taft?
Is Carolyn Kilpatrick, a Michigan congressman representing Detroit and mother of Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, also Michigan's brightest politician? Or does she just have big hair?
The experts call it "face-ism," but we'll call it "Big Head Syndrome." It's the fact that when we see a photograph, we form better opinions of people with the biggest heads, psychological studies show.
It's not that we'd prefer Mr. Potato Head to, say, George Clooney. It's the photographic image researchers are focusing on: They say we think more highly of a person if their head is the most prominent thing in the photo.
This is bad news for women, whose photographs in newspapers and magazines often show more body than men's photographs, studies show.
Research reported today at the annual meeting of the American Psychological Association by a team from the University of Michigan analyzed politician photos on the Web site www.congress.org. The researchers found that women were losing the big-head race by a couple percentage points.
"Women are presenting themselves in this biased manner,'' said Sara Konrath, the doctoral candidate who conducted the study. She pointed out that each politician submitted his or her own picture to the Web site she analyzed.
The differences are subtle, Ms. Konrath acknowledged.
Overall, photos on the Web site gave men bigger heads, and women smaller ones. While the biggest male heads didn't even reveal the color of a man's necktie, the smallest women's heads showed the pendant on a woman's necklace.
The researchers analyzed the head size by measuring from the top of a politician's hair to the bottom of the chin. Then, the photos were measured from the top of the hair to the bottom of the photo. By dividing the larger number into the smaller, the research team came up with a score for each photograph.
Ohio's biggest heads belong to Senator Voinovich and U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D., Cleveland). Both scored 0.89. The average score for male politicians is 0.78. But Miss Kaptur was better than the average male, with a score of 0.79. The average female score is 0.75.
Miss Kaptur's score gives her a better rating than, among others, U.S. Sen. Mike DeWine (R., Ohio), who scored 0.76, Governor Taft with 0.76, and - with Ohio's most diminutive head, Youngstown-area Democratic Congressman Tim Ryan at 0.72.
But her rating paled beside those of U.S. Reps. Mike Oxley (R., Findlay) at 0.87 and John Boehner (R., West Chester with 0.87.
Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm scored a 0.76, slightly above average.
Women who fared the best in the big-head competition had a couple things in common: They tended to be single, as is Miss Kaptur, and many possess three academic degrees. Miss Kaptur was pursuing a third degree at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology when she was first recruited to run for Congress.
So, should politicians start redesigning their Web sites to project a smarter, more-competent head size? It's too soon to say. While earlier studies have shown a relationship between head size and a viewer's positive feelings, no such study has been conducted on politicians' photographs.
Contact Jenni Laidman at: