Two faces are better than one: Eliminating false trait associations with faces

Amir Goren, Alexander Todorov

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


Traits spontaneously inferred from behaviors bind to actors' faces (spontaneous trait inferences, or STI), and can inappropriately bind to faces of persons deemed irrelevant to the behaviors (spontaneous trait transference, or STT). Experiments 1 and 2 showed that STT effects, while weaker than STI, nevertheless occurred in the face of clear irrelevance instructions. Experiment 3 showed that STT-but not STI-can be eliminated when faces and behaviors are separated perceptually. Experiments 4, 5, and 6 found no STT when a relevant and an irrelevant actor were presented simultaneously, suggesting that inferred traits bind exclusively to faces of relevant targets when these targets are present and bind to irrelevant targets only when relevant targets are absent and irrelevant targets are present. The experiments rule out an attentional account of this phenomenon, demonstrating STT elimination when attention to concomitant face-behavior pairs was ensured. The findings suggest a spontaneous attributional process.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)222-248
Number of pages27
JournalSocial Cognition
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2009

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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