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.