Psychological Science 2017, 40(6) 1428-1434 DOI:     ISSN: 0412-1961 CN: 21-1139/TG

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Facial attractiveness, Moral behavior, Honesty,N200
RU Shou-Shou
FAN Re-Lin
CHEN Qiang-Wei
LI Jing-Hua
WU Lei
Article by Ru,S.S
Article by Fan,R.L
Article by Chen,Q.W
Article by Li,J.H
Article by Wu,l
Article by Zhou,G.F

Electrophysiological Correlates of Processing Female Facial Attractiveness and Its Influence on Male Honesty


Numerous studies have provided behavioral evidence to clarify the relationship between outward beauty and inner goodness. However, previous studies have primarily focused on the mutual relation between aesthetic processing and moral judgment that is “the judgment of same person’s outward appearance and inner morality”. Such research is meaningful, but it also deserves our attention to investigating whether individual facial attractive would influence other person’s moral behavior. Moreover, a series of event-related potential (ERP) studies have investigated the electrophysiological correlates of facial attractiveness processing in various task paradigms. It is still unclear whether facial attractiveness can be detected and processed automatically in social game contexts. This study firstly aims to investigate the influence of female physical attractiveness on male moral behavior as indicated by honesty. Secondly, this study examines the temporal features of brain activities involved in processing facial attractiveness in a social context by recording event-related potentials (ERPs) for attractive and unattractive recorder conditions while participants performed a modified coin-toss game with a reward. Thirty-six male college students (the average age = 22.04 years, SD = 2.08) were recruited and were randomly assigned to one of two conditions: attractive and unattractive female recorder conditions. In the task, participants were informed to gain money by accurately predicting the outcomes of computerized coin-flips. Participants were rewarded based on their self-reported accuracy and could earn a greater reward by lying about their prediction accuracy. A face image of a female recorder (attractive or unattractive) was presented to the participants during the task. We tested the influence of facial attractiveness on one’s honesty by comparing participants’ performance in the presence of different attractive female face. One who self-reported accuracy approximating the statistical probability of 0.5 was considered as more honest. Behavioral results showed that no significant difference between prediction accuracy in the attractive condition and random level (p > 0.05) was revealed, self-reported prediction accuracy in the unattractive condition was significantly higher than the random level(p < 0.01). Meanwhile, subjects self-reported prediction accuracy under the attractive recorder condition was significantly lower than that under the unattractive recorder condition (p < 0.01). ERP analysis revealed that a significantly larger central-parietal N200 amplitude was elicited in attractive condition reflecting the enhanced attention towards attractive face due to its emotional significant. This study demonstrated that facial attractiveness is rapidly detected in social game and facilitates human moral honesty; participants were more honest when presented with an attractive face than when presented with unattractive face. In addition, an early electrophysiological response to facial attractive was revealed, which fosters greater understanding of automatic facial processing in a social context.

Keywords Facial attractiveness, Moral behavior, Honesty,N200  
Received 2016-09-14 Revised 2017-05-03 Online: 2017-11-20 
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