The Look that Binds: Partner-Directed Altruistic Motivation and Biased Perception in Married Couples

Raluca Petrican, Alexander Todorov, Christopher T. Burris, R. Shayna Rosenbaum, Cheryl Grady

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


A trustworthy appearance is regarded as a marker of a globally positive personality and, thus, evokes a host of benevolent responses from perceivers. Nevertheless, it is yet to be determined whether the reverse is also true, that is, whether social targets who evoke unambiguously benign motivations in perceivers are regarded as possessing a more trustworthy appearance (cf. Oosterhof and Todorov in Emotion 9:128–133, 2008). To this end, elderly long-term married couples completed measures of partner-directed altruistic motivation, accommodative behaviors, marital satisfaction, and trust in the partner. They also completed a face-processing task involving spousal and stranger faces 1 year later. Higher motivation to prioritize a spouse’s well-being (but none of the other relationship functioning variables assessed) predicted perceiving one’s spouse’s emotionally neutral face as being more trustworthy-looking. Results are discussed in the context of the reciprocal relationship between higher-order motivational processes and basic perceptual mechanisms in shaping relational climates.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)165-179
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Nonverbal Behavior
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 1 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Psychology


  • Altruistic motivation
  • Face processing
  • Facial trustworthiness
  • Married couples


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