In Japan, there are three contenders for the leadership of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party: Foreign Minister Taro Aso, Finance Minister Sadakazu Tanigaki and Chief Cabinet Secretary Shinzo Abe. Friday’s Straits Times carried a picture of the three rivals shaking hands, in which I noticed that Mr Aso and Mr Abe have parted their hair on the right, while Mr Tanigaki’s hair is parted on the left.
I was reminded of this study/press release claiming that the side on which hair is parted affects the way in which the wearer is perceived by others (due to deep-seated associations with the masculinity or feminity of the actions associated with each hemisphere of the brain), and in particular the claim that men parting their hair on the right in America will be assessed negatively when performing in a traditonally male role, due to their perceived association with feminine qualities. It goes on to suggest that there is a higher percentage of right-parters in public life than amongst the unwashed, due to the greater effort they have to make in order to overcome the social difficulties arising from their being subconsciously percieved as a big girly-man: their early struggles give them the edge over the left-parters when competing for public office.
Of course, it should be noted that the study was carried out by the manufacturers of the True Mirror, one that reverses the image presented to you so you can see yourself as others do, and it should also be remembered that all three politicians mentioned above are Japanese. The fact that Junichiro Koizumi has publicly endosed Mr Abe might also have more to do with his eventual success than his barber’s efforts. Still, if I had some spare cash I’d be tempted to put some on Mr Tanigaki: if the minority hair part is the one tempered by a lifetime of swimming against the current, then perhaps he’s still in with a chance.