Culturally-valued facial expressions enhance loan request success
Why do people share resources with some strangers, but not others? This question becomes increasingly relevant as online platforms that promote lending world-wide proliferate (e.g., www.kiva.org). We predicted that lenders from nations that value excitement and other high-arousal positive states (HAP; e.g., United States) would loan more to borrowers who show excitement in their profile photos because the lenders perceive them to be more affiliative (e.g., trustworthy). As predicted, using naturally occurring Kiva data, lenders from the United States and Canada were more likely to lend money to borrowers (N 13,500) who showed greater positive arousal (e.g., excitement) than were lenders from East Asian nations (e.g., Taiwan), above and beyond loan features (amount, repayment term; Study 1). In a randomly selected sample of Kiva lenders from 11 nations (N 658), lenders from nations that valued HAP more were more likely to lend money to borrowers who showed open “excited” versus closed “calm” smiles, above and beyond other socioeconomic and cultural factors (Study 2). Finally, we examined whether cultural differences in lending were related to judgments of affiliation in an experimental study (Study 3, N 103). Compared with Koreans, European Americans lent more to excited borrowers because they viewed them as more affiliative, regardless of borrowers’ race (White, Asian) or sex (male, female). These findings suggest that people use their culture’s affective values to decide with whom to share resources, and lend less to borrowers whose emotional expressions do not match those values, regardless of their race or sex.