Altruistic Face: Experimental Study on Facial Morphology and Prosociality in Buryats of Southern Siberia



The aim of the present experimental study was to investigate possible associations between indi - vidual cooperativeness and facial morphology. Participants of the study were Buryats of Southern Si - beria (males: N=98; females: N=89; mean age 20 ± 2y.). Individual cooperativeness was assessed in experimental economic game “Public Goods Game”, which was conducted “face-to-face”, in groups of 4 same-sex individuals, who were strangers to each other. The game involved real monetary pay-offs. In the course of the experiment such individual behavioral features as propensity for unconditional/conditional cooperation, selfishness, or free-riding were revealed. Facial shapes of participants were explored through anthropological photographs using geometric morphometrics, and via assessing standard facial indexes. As a result the relationship between facial shape and unconditional cooperation was identified and visualized. This relationship appeared only among males. The analysis of sex-specific facial traits of Buryats revealed that faces of male unconditional cooperators combined both male-specific, and female-specific facial features. This is the first study to investigate association between full facial shape and human cooperativeness.

General Information

Keywords: altruism, facial morphology, Buryats, cooperation, geometric morphometrics

Journal rubric: Face Science

Article type: scientific article


Funding. This work was supported by the Russian Science Foundation grant № 18-18-00075.

Acknowledgements. The authors are grateful to East-Siberian State Institute of Culture (VSGIK) for assistance in organizing the study in Buryatia.

For citation: Rostovtseva V.V., Mezentseva A.A., Windhager S., Butovskaya M.L. Altruistic Face: Experimental Study on Facial Morphology and Prosociality in Buryats of Southern Siberia. Eksperimental'naâ psihologiâ = Experimental Psychology (Russia), 2021. Vol. 14, no. 2, pp. 85–100. DOI: 10.17759/exppsy.2021140206.


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Information About the Authors

Viktoria V. Rostovtseva, PhD in Biology, senior researcher at the Center for Cross-Cultural Psychology and Human Ethology, Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology, Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow, Russia, ORCID:, e-mail:

Anna A. Mezentseva, Junior Researcher at the Center for Cross-Cultural Psychology and Human Ethology Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology, Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow, Russia, ORCID:, e-mail:

Sonja Windhager, Lecturer, Department of Evolutionary Anthropology, Faculty of Life Sciences, University of Vienna, Vienna, Austria, ORCID:, e-mail:

Marina L. Butovskaya, Doctor of History, Professor, Head of the Sector of Cross-Cultural Psychology and Human Ethology, Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology of the Russian Academy of Sciences (IEA RAS), Leading Researcher Training and Research Center of Social Anthropology, Russian State Humanitarian University (RGGU UNCSA), Professor of the Department of Ethnology, Faculty of History, Lomonosov Moscow State University, Moscow, Russia, ORCID:, e-mail:



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