Functional projection: How fundamental social motives can bias interpersonal perception

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

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

296 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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