Understanding identification-based trust in the light of affiliative bonding: Meta-analytic neuroimaging evidence

Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2021 Dec:131:627-641. doi: 10.1016/j.neubiorev.2021.09.053. Epub 2021 Oct 1.


Trust is vital for establishing social relationships and is a crucial precursor for affiliative bonds. Investigations explored the neuropsychological bases of trust separately (e.g., measured by the trust game) and affiliative bonding (e.g., measured by parental care, pair-bonding, or friendship). However, direct empirical support for the shared neural mechanisms between trust and affiliative bonding is missing. Here, we conducted a coordinate-based meta-analysis on functional magnetic resonance imaging studies on interpersonal trust and affiliative bonding using the activation likelihood estimation method. Our results demonstrated that decisions to trust strangers in repeated interactions (i.e., identification-based trust) engaged the ventral striatum (vSTR, part of the mesolimbic dopaminergic pathway), likely signaling the reward anticipation. Further, both feedbacks in repeated interactions and affiliative bonding engaged the dorsal striatum (dSTR, part of the nigrostriatal dopaminergic pathway), likely encoding learning dynamics. Our findings suggest that identification-based trust can be understood in the light of affiliative bonding, involving the mesocorticolimbic "reward" pathway (vSTR) and nigrostriatal "habit formation" pathway (dSTR) in building and sustaining social relationships.

Keywords: Affiliative bonding; Identification-based trust; Interpersonal trust; Mesocortical pathway; Mesolimbic pathway; Nigrostriatal pathway.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Neuroimaging
  • Object Attachment*
  • Reward
  • Trust* / psychology