Evaluating face trustworthiness: A model based approach

Alexander Todorov, Sean G. Baron, Nikolaas N. Oosterhof

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

317 Scopus citations


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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)119-127
Number of pages9
JournalSocial cognitive and affective neuroscience
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2008

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


  • Amygdala
  • Faces
  • Person perception
  • Trust worthiness


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