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Automatic and intentional brain responses during evaluation of trustworthiness of faces

Abstract

Successful social interaction partly depends on appraisal of others from their facial appearance. A critical aspect of this appraisal relates to whether we consider others to be trustworthy. We determined the neural basis for such trustworthiness judgments using event-related functional magnetic resonance imaging. Subjects viewed faces and assessed either trustworthiness or age. In a parametric factorial design, trustworthiness ratings were correlated with BOLD signal change to reveal task-independent increased activity in bilateral amygdala and right insula in response to faces judged untrustworthy. Right superior temporal sulcus (STS) showed enhanced signal change during explicit trustworthiness judgments alone. The findings extend a proposed model of social cognition by highlighting a functional dissociation between automatic engagement of amygdala versus intentional engagement of STS in social judgment.

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Figure 1: Trustworthiness and emotion ratings for stimuli.
Figure 2: Main effect of explicit social judgments.
Figure 3: Main effect of trustworthiness in amygdala and insula.
Figure 4: Main effect of trustworthiness in fusiform gyrus.
Figure 5: Main effect of trustworthiness in amygdala independent of facial emotion.

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Acknowledgements

This work was supported by a programme grant to R.J.D. from the Wellcome Trust.

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Correspondence to J.S. Winston.

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Winston, J., Strange, B., O'Doherty, J. et al. Automatic and intentional brain responses during evaluation of trustworthiness of faces. Nat Neurosci 5, 277–283 (2002). https://doi.org/10.1038/nn816

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