Journal of Nonverbal Behavior

, Volume 39, Issue 2, pp 165–179 | Cite as

The Look that Binds: Partner-Directed Altruistic Motivation and Biased Perception in Married Couples

  • Raluca PetricanEmail author
  • Alexander Todorov
  • Christopher T. Burris
  • R. Shayna Rosenbaum
  • Cheryl Grady
Original Paper


A trustworthy appearance is regarded as a marker of a globally positive personality and, thus, evokes a host of benevolent responses from perceivers. Nevertheless, it is yet to be determined whether the reverse is also true, that is, whether social targets who evoke unambiguously benign motivations in perceivers are regarded as possessing a more trustworthy appearance (cf. Oosterhof and Todorov in Emotion 9:128–133, 2008). To this end, elderly long-term married couples completed measures of partner-directed altruistic motivation, accommodative behaviors, marital satisfaction, and trust in the partner. They also completed a face-processing task involving spousal and stranger faces 1 year later. Higher motivation to prioritize a spouse’s well-being (but none of the other relationship functioning variables assessed) predicted perceiving one’s spouse’s emotionally neutral face as being more trustworthy-looking. Results are discussed in the context of the reciprocal relationship between higher-order motivational processes and basic perceptual mechanisms in shaping relational climates.


Facial trustworthiness Face processing Altruistic motivation Married couples 



This research was supported by a Canadian Institutes of Health Research postdoctoral fellowship awarded to Raluca Petrican, a CIHR grant to Cheryl Grady (MOP14036), and the Canada Research Chair program (Tier 1 CRC to C.L.G.).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Raluca Petrican
    • 1
    Email author
  • Alexander Todorov
    • 2
  • Christopher T. Burris
    • 3
  • R. Shayna Rosenbaum
    • 4
  • Cheryl Grady
    • 5
  1. 1.Rotman Research InstituteTorontoCanada
  2. 2.Department of Psychology, 2-N-7 Green HallPrinceton UniversityPrincetonUSA
  3. 3.Department of PsychologySt. Jerome’s UniversityWaterlooCanada
  4. 4.Department of PsychologyYork University and Rotman Research InstituteTorontoCanada
  5. 5.Department of Psychology and Psychiatry, Rotman Research InstituteUniversity of TorontoTorontoCanada

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