Learning the affective value of people: More than affect-based mechanisms

Chiara Ferrari, Dong Won Oh, Brandon P. Labbree, Alexander Todorov

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


People's ability to learn about the affective value of others is impressive. However, it is unclear whether this learning solely reflects general affect-based processes or a mixture of affect-based and person-attribution processes. Consistent with the former possibility, people's ability to learn the affective value of people and places have been shown to be comparable (Falvello, Vinson, Ferrari, & Todorov, 2015). To investigate whether general affect-based processes are sufficient to account for this kind of learning, we presented participants with images paired with valenced statements that were either relevant (e.g., a person statement with a person image) or irrelevant (e.g., a person statement with a non-person image). After this presentation, participants evaluated the goodness or badness of the images. In Experiment 1, we found that the learning effects for faces and places were comparable and occurred only when the statements were relevant. However, when we presented the images with multiple statements of the same valence (Experiments 2–4), we found that places acquired affective value from both relevant and irrelevant statements. In contrast, faces were less likely to acquire affective value from irrelevant statements. Our findings suggest that although general affect-based processes might be sufficient to account for affective learning of places, affective learning of faces might involve both affect-based and person-attribution processes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number103011
JournalActa Psychologica
StatePublished - Feb 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


  • Affective learning
  • Moral values
  • Person attribution
  • Valence


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