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Published November 1, 2018 | Supplemental Material + Published
Journal Article Open

Inferring Whether Officials Are Corruptible From Looking At Their Faces


While inferences of traits from unfamiliar faces prominently reveal stereotypes, some facial inferences also correlate with real-world outcomes. We investigated whether facial inferences are associated with an important real-world outcome closely linked to the face bearer's behavior: political corruption. In four preregistered studies (N = 325), participants made trait judgments of unfamiliar government officials on the basis of their photos. Relative to peers with clean records, federal and state officials convicted of political corruption (Study 1) and local officials who violated campaign finance laws (Study 2) were perceived as more corruptible, dishonest, selfish, and aggressive but similarly competent, ambitious, and masculine (Study 3). Mediation analyses and experiments in which the photos were digitally manipulated showed that participants' judgments of how corruptible an official looked were causally influenced by the face width of the stimuli (Study 4). The findings shed new light on the complex causal mechanisms linking facial appearances with social behavior.

Additional Information

© 2018 The Author(s). Received: September 25, 2017; Accepted: June 03, 2018; Article first published online: September 12, 2018. Action Editor: D. Stephen Lindsay served as action editor for this article. Author Contributions: All authors developed the study concept and designed the study. Testing and data collection were performed by C. Lin, who also analyzed and interpreted the data under the supervision of R. Adolphs and R. M. Alvarez. All authors drafted the manuscript. All the authors approved the final manuscript for submission. We thank Colin F. Camerer, Antonio Rangel, Anita Tusche, and Shuo Wang for helpful conversations. The author(s) declared that there were no conflicts of interest with respect to the authorship or the publication of this article. This research was supported in part by a Conte Center grant from the National Institute of Mental Health (P50MH094258). Supplemental Material: Additional supporting information can be found at http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/suppl/10.1177/0956797618788882. Open Practices: All data and materials have been made publicly available via the Open Science Framework (OSF) and can be accessed at https://osf.io/chpfn/. The design and analysis plans for the experiments were preregistered at the OSF (Study 1: https://osf.io/mge8r/, Study 2: https://osf.io/tgzpz/, Study 3: https://osf.io/7a7eu/, Study 4: https://osf.io/58x6e/). The complete Open Practices Disclosure for this article can be found at http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/suppl/10.1177/0956797618788882. This article has received badges for Open Data, Open Materials, and Preregistration. More information about the Open Practices badges can be found at http://www.psychologicalscience.org/publications/badges.

Attached Files

Published - 10.1177_0956797618788882.pdf

Supplemental Material - LinOpenPracticesDisclosure.pdf

Supplemental Material - LinSupplementalMaterial.pdf


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August 19, 2023
October 18, 2023