Neural representations of honesty predict future trust behavior

Nat Commun. 2019 Nov 15;10(1):5184. doi: 10.1038/s41467-019-13261-8.


Theoretical accounts propose honesty as a central determinant of trustworthiness impressions and trusting behavior. However, behavioral and neural evidence on the relationships between honesty and trust is missing. Here, combining a novel paradigm that successfully induces trustworthiness impressions with functional MRI and multivariate analyses, we demonstrate that honesty-based trustworthiness is represented in the posterior cingulate cortex, dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and intraparietal sulcus. Crucially, brain signals in these regions predict individual trust in a subsequent social interaction with the same partner. Honesty recruited the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (VMPFC), and stronger functional connectivity between the VMPFC and temporoparietal junction during honesty encoding was associated with higher trust in the subsequent interaction. These results suggest that honesty signals in the VMPFC are integrated into trustworthiness beliefs to inform present and future social behaviors. These findings improve our understanding of the neural representations of an individual's social character that guide behaviors during interpersonal interactions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attitude
  • Brain / diagnostic imaging
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Social Behavior
  • Trust*
  • Young Adult