The effect of facial attractiveness on the judgment about altruism and "free riding"  

Béla B., Tamás B.
First author's affiliation: University of Pécs, Institut of Psychology, Pécs, Hungary

In the present study, we were curious how the attractiveness of faces is related to the judgments about cooperativeness. In the light of previous studies we expected that the participants attribute less selfishness and more altruism to an attractive face and on the other hand, they regard less attractive faces as more selfish and less altruistic. Photographs of male and female faces were presented to the participants. These pictures were differentiated by their attractiveness: "very attractive", "attractive" and "non-attractive". In one set of experimental groups a self-report was associated with each picture that contained the person's opinion how she/he would behave in a specific, teamwork situation. Some of them were depicted as altruistic, others as exploitative person. Three kinds of pictures were shown to participants (altruistic, exploitative, and picture without self-report). The participants were also asked to fill out a checklist about the persons' perceived negative and positive features. A few days later, the participants completed a recognition task. The pictures were presented pair-wise on a computer screen and the participants were asked to choose those photos they had seen in the first experimental phase. Reaction time was also measured. Our findings indicate that female participants are sensitive to the attractiveness of male faces but not to female faces. They recognized the "very attractive" and "attractive" male pictures faster than non-attractive ones, regardless of whether these pictures were associated with self-report or not. Male participants did not show significant differences in reaction time. However, when only the "non-attractive" faces were considered, both male and female participants reached significantly shorter reaction times if the presented pictures were characterized as an altruistic rather than a selfish person.