Impressions of sexual unfaithfulness and their accuracy show a degree of universality

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Abstract

Forming accurate impressions of others’ trustworthiness is a critical social skill, with faithfulness representing a key aspect of trust in sexual relationships. Interestingly, there is evidence for a small degree of accuracy in facial impressions of sexual unfaithfulness. Theoretical accounts suggest that these impressions may function to help with partner selection, and may be universal. If so, impressions should be similar for perceivers from different cultures and accuracy should not be limited to own-race faces. We tested these predictions by asking Caucasian and Asian women to judge the likelihood of unfaithfulness from the faces of Caucasian males whose past sexual history was known. In two studies we found high cross-cultural agreement in these impressions, consistent with universality in the impressions themselves. In Study 1, we found an other-race effect in impression accuracy, with significantly less accurate cross-race impressions by Asian women than own-race impressions by Caucasian women. Asian women showed no accuracy. Interestingly, in Study 2, Asian women who had grown up in the West showed small but significant accuracy in their impressions, with no other-race effect. Results are consistent with a degree of universality in the accuracy of this important aspect of social perception, provided that perceivers have experience with the faces being assessed.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0205716
JournalPLoS One
Volume13
Issue number10
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2018

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Social Perception
prediction
Social Skills

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title = "Impressions of sexual unfaithfulness and their accuracy show a degree of universality",
abstract = "Forming accurate impressions of others’ trustworthiness is a critical social skill, with faithfulness representing a key aspect of trust in sexual relationships. Interestingly, there is evidence for a small degree of accuracy in facial impressions of sexual unfaithfulness. Theoretical accounts suggest that these impressions may function to help with partner selection, and may be universal. If so, impressions should be similar for perceivers from different cultures and accuracy should not be limited to own-race faces. We tested these predictions by asking Caucasian and Asian women to judge the likelihood of unfaithfulness from the faces of Caucasian males whose past sexual history was known. In two studies we found high cross-cultural agreement in these impressions, consistent with universality in the impressions themselves. In Study 1, we found an other-race effect in impression accuracy, with significantly less accurate cross-race impressions by Asian women than own-race impressions by Caucasian women. Asian women showed no accuracy. Interestingly, in Study 2, Asian women who had grown up in the West showed small but significant accuracy in their impressions, with no other-race effect. Results are consistent with a degree of universality in the accuracy of this important aspect of social perception, provided that perceivers have experience with the faces being assessed.",
author = "Sutherland, {Clare A.M.} and Martin, {Laura M.} and Nadine Kloth and Simmons, {Leigh W.} and Foo, {Yong Zhi} and Gillian Rhodes",
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AU - Martin, Laura M.

AU - Kloth, Nadine

AU - Simmons, Leigh W.

AU - Foo, Yong Zhi

AU - Rhodes, Gillian

PY - 2018/10/1

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N2 - Forming accurate impressions of others’ trustworthiness is a critical social skill, with faithfulness representing a key aspect of trust in sexual relationships. Interestingly, there is evidence for a small degree of accuracy in facial impressions of sexual unfaithfulness. Theoretical accounts suggest that these impressions may function to help with partner selection, and may be universal. If so, impressions should be similar for perceivers from different cultures and accuracy should not be limited to own-race faces. We tested these predictions by asking Caucasian and Asian women to judge the likelihood of unfaithfulness from the faces of Caucasian males whose past sexual history was known. In two studies we found high cross-cultural agreement in these impressions, consistent with universality in the impressions themselves. In Study 1, we found an other-race effect in impression accuracy, with significantly less accurate cross-race impressions by Asian women than own-race impressions by Caucasian women. Asian women showed no accuracy. Interestingly, in Study 2, Asian women who had grown up in the West showed small but significant accuracy in their impressions, with no other-race effect. Results are consistent with a degree of universality in the accuracy of this important aspect of social perception, provided that perceivers have experience with the faces being assessed.

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