How head posture affects perceived cooperativeness: a cross-cultural perspective

Dongyu Zhang*, Hongfei Lin, David I. Perrett

*Corresponding author for this work

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Previous research has tested whether culture moderates the relationship between head tilt and perceptions of a cooperation-relevant construct. In this paper, we replicated the effects of head posture on perceived traits and compared Chinese and American participants to explore whether difference in cultural background (collectivist and individualist) affects perceptual attribution. Specifically, we investigated how head posture (level, up or down) affects perceptions of cooperativeness. In Experiment 1, Chinese and American participants rated Asian and Caucasian faces in three postures for perceived cooperativeness on a seven-point Likert scale. In Experiment 2, participants ranked the cooperativeness of the three postures of the same faces. In Experiment 3, participants scrolled through face images and manually manipulated vertical head angle to maximise apparent cooperativeness. We found that for both Chinese and American participants a neutral head level posture was perceived as more cooperative than head up and down postures. The optimal head posture for maximised apparent cooperativeness was close to level but with a slight downward rotation. While there was cross-cultural consistency in perceptions, Chinese participants exhibited greater sensitivity to postural cues in their judgments of cooperation compared to American participants. Our results suggest a profound effect of posture on the perception of cooperativeness that is common across cultures and that there are additional subtle cross-cultural differences in the cues to cooperativeness.
Original languageEnglish
Article number103602
Number of pages7
JournalActa Psychologica
Early online date12 May 2022
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2022


  • Head posture
  • Cooperativeness
  • Cross-cultural
  • Facial width-to-height ratio


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