Face-trait and face-race cues in adults' and children's social evaluations

Tessa E.S. Charlesworth*, Mahzarin R. Banaji

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


When making character judgments from faces, perceivers must integrate and prioritize a myriad of information, including perceived traits (e.g., appearance of trustworthiness, submissiveness, competence) and social category membership (e.g., Afrocentric, Eurocentric appearance). Across four studies, adults (Studies 1-3) and children (5-13 years old; Study 4) made evaluations based predominantly on face-traits. Regardless of whether face pairs were White-White, Black-Black, or White-Black, participants selected the trustworthy, submissive, or competent-appearing face as "nice." Further, although face-traits were used at all ages, face-race cues were used only by older children and adults, in line with correction for race bias. Indeed, adults' use of face-race cues decreased when motivation or ability to control race bias was reduced through time constraints or indirect responding. These findings reveal the processes underlying the prioritization of face-trait over face-race cues and provide the first developmental examination of how perceivers integrate such cues in explicit character evaluations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)357-388
Number of pages32
JournalSocial Cognition
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2019


  • Face inference
  • Social cognitive development
  • Social desirability
  • Trait inference

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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