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Article Dans Une Revue Evolution and Human Behavior Année : 2013

Is cooperativeness readable in static facial features? An inter-cultural approach


There is evidence in the literature that non-verbal physical features are used as cues for a propensity to cooperate. However, further studies of the human ability to visually detect cooperativeness are required. In particular, the existence of static facial cues of altruism remains questionable. Moreover, an investigation of both sex differences and cross-cultural applicability with respect to altruism detection skills is crucial in the context of the evolution of human cooperation. In this study, we used both a public good game and a charitable contribution to assess the cooperativeness of 156 men and 172 women in rural Senegal and took facial photographs of these individuals. The second portion of the study was conducted in France. In total, 194 men and 171 women were asked to distinguish the most and least selfish individual from a series of 80 pairs of Senegalese facial photographs, each pair consisting of the highest and the lowest contributor from a group in the public good game. Using mixed modeling techniques, we controlled for facial masculinity, age and socio-economic status. For male pairs, both male and female French raters were able to identify more often than by chance which individual made the smallest contribution to the public good in each group; however, detection was not successful with female faces. These results suggest that sex-specific traits are involved and that only male facial traits indicating cooperative skills are, at least inter-culturally, readable. The specific facial traits involved are investigated. However, the charitable contribution was not correlated with the contribution to the public good, and further work is necessary to identify which specific altruistic traits are detectable and to assess the generality of these results.

Dates et versions

hal-04023640 , version 1 (10-03-2023)



Arnaud Tognetti, Claire Berticat, Michel Raymond, Charlotte Faurie. Is cooperativeness readable in static facial features? An inter-cultural approach. Evolution and Human Behavior, 2013, 34 (6), pp.427-432. ⟨10.1016/j.evolhumbehav.2013.08.002⟩. ⟨hal-04023640⟩
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