You cannot judge a book by its cover: Evidence from a laboratory experiment on recognizing generosity from facial information

Du N., Song F., Cadsby C. B.

Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics, vol.100, 2022 (SSCI) identifier identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Volume: 100
  • Publication Date: 2022
  • Doi Number: 10.1016/j.socec.2022.101909
  • Journal Name: Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics
  • Journal Indexes: Social Sciences Citation Index (SSCI), Scopus, ABI/INFORM, CAB Abstracts, EconLit, Psycinfo, Veterinary Science Database
  • Keywords: Face -based judgment, Experiment, Dictator game, Other -regarding preferences, Generosity, Appearance
  • TED University Affiliated: No


© 2022People form first impressions of others and may make judgments about their social traits and character on the basis of facial perceptions. We implement a controlled laboratory experiment to investigate whether people can glean information about another person's other-regarding preferences from uncropped photographs of their face. To do so, we conduct a dictator game with an allocator and a recipient, and then present pairs of allocator photos to observers. Each pair portrays one relatively generous allocator and another who has demonstrated less generosity. The experimental results show that the observers cannot accurately recognize more generous allocators, but instead make systematic errors. In particular, the observers believe that allocators who are rated more attractive by others are more generous, despite there being no actual relationship between physical attractiveness and generosity.