Evaluating face trustworthiness: a model based approach

Soc Cogn Affect Neurosci. 2008 Jun;3(2):119-27. doi: 10.1093/scan/nsn009. Epub 2008 Mar 26.


Judgments of trustworthiness from faces determine basic approach/avoidance responses and approximate the valence evaluation of faces that runs across multiple person judgments. Here, based on trustworthiness judgments and using a computer model for face representation, we built a model for representing face trustworthiness (study 1). Using this model, we generated novel faces with an increased range of trustworthiness and used these faces as stimuli in a functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging study (study 2). Although participants did not engage in explicit evaluation of the faces, the amygdala response changed as a function of face trustworthiness. An area in the right amygdala showed a negative linear response-as the untrustworthiness of faces increased so did the amygdala response. Areas in the left and right putamen, the latter area extended into the anterior insula, showed a similar negative linear response. The response in the left amygdala was quadratic--strongest for faces on both extremes of the trustworthiness dimension. The medial prefrontal cortex and precuneus also showed a quadratic response, but their response was strongest to faces in the middle range of the trustworthiness dimension.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Amygdala / physiology
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Computer Simulation
  • Facial Expression*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Judgment / physiology*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Models, Neurological
  • Pattern Recognition, Visual / physiology
  • Prefrontal Cortex / physiology
  • Putamen / physiology
  • Recognition, Psychology / physiology
  • Social Behavior
  • Social Perception*
  • Trust*
  • Young Adult