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

Clare A. M. Sutherland* (Corresponding Author), Cosimo Urgesi (Editor), Laura M. Martin, Nadine Kloth, Leigh W. Simmons, Yong Zhi Foo, Gillian Rhodes

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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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 number0205716
JournalPloS ONE
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 25 Oct 2018

Bibliographical note

his research was supported by the Australian Research Council (ARC) Centre of Excellence in Cognition and its Disorders (CE110001021) and an ARC Discovery Outstanding Researcher Award to GR (DP130102300), an ARC Discovery project to GR and CS (DP170104602) and an ARC Professorial Fellowship to LS (DP110104594). The funders had no influence on the research.


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