Judging a Book by its Cover: Beauty and Expectations in the Trust Game Academic Article uri icon


  • This research examines one mechanism by which people decide whether to trust strangers. Using a laboratory setting that provides subjects with controlled information about their counterparts, we test whether attractive subjects gain a "beauty premium" in a game involving trust and reciprocity. Attractive trustees are viewed as more trustworthy; they are trusted at higher rates and as a consequence earn more in the first stage of the game. Attractiveness does not guarantee higher earnings, as we find a "beauty penalty" attached to attractive trusters in the second stage of the game. This penalty arises because attractive trusters do not live up to expectations of them on the part of the trustees. Trustees withhold repayment when their expectations are dashed. This punishment is larger when the disappointing truster is attractive.

altmetric score

  • 21.468

author list (cited authors)

  • Wilson, R. K., & Eckel, C. C.

citation count

  • 193

publication date

  • June 2006