Fortunes and misfortunes of political leaders reflected in the eyes of their electors

Giuseppina Porciello, Marco Tullio Liuzza, Ilaria Minio-Paluello, Gian Vittorio Caprara, Salvatore Maria Aglioti

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Gaze-following is a pivotal social behaviour that, although largely automatic, is permeable to high-order variables like political affiliation. A few years ago we reported that the gaze of Italian right-wing voters was selectively captured by the gaze of their leader Silvio Berlusconi. This effect was particularly evident in voters who saw themselves as similar to Berlusconi. Two years later, we were able to run the present follow-up study because Berlusconi’s popularity had drastically dropped due to sex and political scandals, and he resigned from office. In a representative subsample of our original group, we investigated whether perceived similarity and gaze-following reflected Berlusconi’s loss in popularity. We were also able to test the same hypothesis in an independent group of right-wing voters when their leader, Renata Polverini, resigned as Governor of ‘Regione Lazio’ due to political scandals. Our results show that the leaders’ fall in popularity paralleled the reduction of their gaze’s attracting power, as well as the decrease in similarity perceived by their voters. The less similar right-wing voters felt to their leader, the less they followed his/her gaze. Thus, the present experimental findings suggest that gaze-following can be modulated by complex situational and dispositional factors such as leader’s popularity and voter–leader perceived similarity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)733-740
Number of pages8
JournalExperimental Brain Research
Issue number3
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - Nov 25 2015


  • Gaze-following behaviour
  • Ideology
  • Perceived similarity
  • Political affiliation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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