Simultaneous Perceptual and Response Biases on Sequential Face Attractiveness Judgments

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Face attractiveness is a social characteristic that we often use to make first-pass judgments about the people around us. However, these judgments are highly influenced by our surrounding social world, and researchers still understand little about the mechanisms underlying these influences. In a series of 3 experiments, we use a novel sequential rating paradigm that enables us to measure biases in attractiveness judgments from the previous face and the previous rating. Our results reveal 2 simultaneous and opposing influences on face attractiveness judgments that arise from past experience of faces: a response bias in which attractiveness ratings shift toward a previously given rating and a stimulus bias in which attractiveness ratings shift away from the mean attractiveness of the previous face. Further, we provide evidence that the contrastive stimulus bias (but not the assimilative response bias) is strengthened by increasing the duration of the previous stimulus, suggesting an underlying perceptual mechanism. These results demonstrate that judgments of face attractiveness are influenced by information from our evaluative and perceptual history and that these influences have measurable behavioral effects over the course of just a few seconds.

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