Explaining the persistent influence of facial cues in social decision-making

Bastian Jaeger*, Anthony M. Evans, Mariëlle Stel, Ilja van Beest

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)
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Impressions of trustworthiness based on facial cues influence many consequential decisions, in spite of their (generally) poor accuracy. Here, we test whether reliance on facial cues can be better explained by (a) the belief that facial cues are more valid than other cues or by (b) the quick and primary processing of faces, which makes relying on facial cues relatively effortless. Six studies (N = 2,732 with 73,182 trust decisions) test the two accounts by comparing the effects of facial cues and economic payoffs on trust decisions. People believe that facial cues are less valid than economic payoffs (Study 1) but relying on facial cues takes less time than relying on economic payoffs (Study 2). Critically, introducing facial cues causes people to discount payoff information, but introducing payoff information does not reduce the effect of facial cues (Studies 3a-c). Finally, when making intuitive (vs. reflective) trust decisions, people rely less on payoff information, but they do not rely less on facial cues (Study 4). Together, these findings suggest that persistent reliance on facial trustworthiness is better explained by the intuitive accessibility of facial cues, rather than beliefs that facial cues are particularly valid.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1008-1021
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: General
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2019


  • Face perception
  • Judgment and decision-making
  • Trust
  • Trustworthiness


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