Self-protection motives have been documented to influence a range of intergroup processes, including biased categorization of racially ambiguous targets as out-group members and a heightened ability to discriminate in-group from out-group members. In this work, the influence of self-protective states is extended to interpersonal processes. Specifically, in two experiments we demonstrate that activating self-protection motives (relative to a control experience) leads to more accurate detection of facial cues associated with trustworthiness. In Experiment 1, participants with salient self-protection concerns were better able to distinguish between faces pre-rated as appearing high and low in trustworthiness. In Experiment 2, we used dynamic cues associated with trustworthiness and found that participants with active self-protection goals more accurately distinguished genuine from false smiles. These results are among the first to document the influence of self-protection motives on interpersonal judgments, thereby expanding the scope and focus of fundamental motives research.
Young, S.G., Michael Slepian, and D. Sacco. "Sensitivity to perceived facial trustworthiness is increased by activating self-protection motives." Social Psychological and Personality Science 6, no. 6 (August 2015): 607-613.
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