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You Cannot Judge a Book by Its Cover: Evidence from a Laboratory Experiment on Recognizing Generosity from Facial Information

Ninghua Du (), Fei Song () and Charles Cadsby ()
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Ninghua Du: School of Economics, Shanghai University of Finance and Economics, Shanghai, China
Fei Song: Ted Rogers School of Management, Ryerson University, Toronto ON Canada

No 2007, Working Papers from University of Guelph, Department of Economics and Finance

Abstract: People form first impressions of others and 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 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 as being more attractive by others are more generous, despite there being no actual relationship between physical attractiveness and generosity.

Keywords: Experiment; Dictator Game; Social Preference; Other-regarding Preferences; Generosity; Appearance. (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: C91 D91 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Pages: 22 pages
Date: 2020
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-cbe and nep-exp
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