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J Exp Psychol Gen. 2019 Feb 4. doi: 10.1037/xge0000508. [Epub ahead of print]

The power of pupil size in establishing trust and reciprocity.

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1
Institute of Psychology.

Abstract

The eyes are extremely important in communication and can send a multitude of different messages. Someone's pupil size carries significant social information and can reflect different cognitive and affective states that within a social interaction can prove to be particularly meaningful. In 3 studies we investigated the impact of a person's pupil size on how others evaluate that person. In Experiment 1, participants played trust games in the role of investor. The results demonstrate that participants trusted happy compared with angry partners more, as well as those with dilating compared with constricting pupils, to whom they also assigned more positive personality traits including friendliness, attractiveness, and trustworthiness. In Experiment 2, participants played the same trust game, but this time in the role of trustee, where they had to decide to reciprocate and share a financial gain with the investor or to keep it for themselves, and act selfishly. The results show that participants reciprocated more to partners with dilating compared with constricting pupils. In Experiment 3, we found preliminary evidence that these positive behavioral changes are likely to be specifically directed to the virtual partner and do not reflect a general positivity bias. To conclude, pupil size is an important social cue that others implicitly take into account when making social decisions. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2019 APA, all rights reserved).

PMID:
30714782
DOI:
10.1037/xge0000508

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