Attractiveness, Trust and Trustworthiness: An Experimental Study


  • Kean-Siang Ch'ng Universiti Sains Malaysia



Attractiveness, experiment, trust, trust game, trustworthiness


Trust and reciprocating trust are two vital elements in any interpersonal relation. In a situation when there is no reputational information, people have been found to rely on physical cues, such as gender, race, attractiveness, facial expression and others to deduce trustworthiness of other parties. The present paper investigated this stereotype in a trust game by incorporating facial attractiveness. What we were interested in was the impact of attractiveness on trustors’ trust on trustees and trustworthiness of the trustees. The main contribution of the paper is that it investigated the associations using a five-person trust game and allowed the trustors to evaluate the attractiveness of the trustee. The design allowed us to establish the causal association between individuals’ perception on attractiveness and transfer more directly. The results showed male trustors ranked the same female trustees higher than female trustors in terms of attractiveness, and this was translated to higher transferred amount from male trustors to the trustees. Additionally, we find male trustors transferred significantly larger amount to more attractive female trustees than less attractive trustees, but there was no such difference among female trustors. However, the kindness extended by the male trustors to the more attractive female trustees were not reciprocated by the trustees. The trustworthiness as measured by the amount transferred back by trustees was not significantly different between less and more attractive trustees. The results highlighted systematic bias in decision making when prior information about the partners was not available.


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Author Biography

Kean-Siang Ch'ng, Universiti Sains Malaysia

Economics Department, School of Social Sciences