The attractive side of trustworthiness: effects of relationship context and social interaction anxiety on face preferences

Mariana L. Carrito*, Isabel M. Santos, Pedro Bem-Haja, Andrea A. Lopes, Carlos F. Silva, David I. Perrett

*Corresponding author for this work

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Previous studies have highlighted the influence of conditional mating strategies in attractiveness preferences. "Good genes" and dominance cues are perceived as attractive when considering short-term relationships. In contrast, cues for better parenting abilities and trustworthiness are considered more attractive when participants ponder a long-term relationship. We investigated women's and men's attractiveness preferences in other-sex faces that were structurally altered along a continuum of apparent trustworthiness. Faces were adjusted in shape toward the perceived trustworthy-untrustworthy extremes defined on the basis of previously created prototypes. We anticipated that perceived trustworthiness would be more important for long-term than short-term relationships because of the greater costs of exploitation. Also, we explored individual differences in preferences, anticipating that participants with high social interaction anxiety would prefer more trustworthy-looking faces. As expected, we found a preference for more trustworthy-looking faces when participants considered a long-term versus a short-term relationship. Social interaction anxiety correlated positively with trustworthiness preferences, probably reflecting an avoidance response in anxious individuals, induced by untrustworthy cues. Collectively, these findings constitute novel evidence of the influence of individual differences in mate choice-relevant face preferences.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)261-269
Number of pages9
JournalEvolutionary Behavioral Sciences
Issue number3
Early online date25 Jul 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2020


  • Attractiveness
  • Face preferences
  • Relationship context
  • Social interaction anxiety
  • Trustworthiness


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