Functional projection: How fundamental social motives can bias interpersonal perception

Jon K. Maner*, Douglas T. Kenrick, D. Vaughn Backer, Theresa E. Robertson, Brian Hofer, Steven L. Neuberg, Andrew W. Delton, Jonathan Butner, Mark Schaller

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

341 Scopus citations


Results from 2 experimental studies suggest that self-protection and mate-search goals lead to the perception of functionally relevant emotional expressions in goal-relevant social targets. Activating a self-protection goal led participants to perceive greater anger in Black male faces (Study 1) and Arab faces (Study 2), both out-groups heuristically associated with physical threat. In Study 2, participants' level of implicit Arab-threat associations moderated this bias. Activating a mate-search goal led male, but not female, participants to perceive more sexual arousal in attractive opposite-sex targets (Study 1). Activating these goals did not influence perceptions of goal-irrelevant targets. Additionally, participants with chronic self-protective and mate-search goals exhibited similar biases. Findings are consistent with a functionalist, motivation-based account of interpersonal perception.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)63-78
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of personality and social psychology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2005

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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