Evaluating Faces on Social Dimensions

Alexander Todorov

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

37 Scopus citations


This chapter focuses on the processes underlying the evaluation of faces. Although people evaluate faces on multiple trait dimensions, these evaluations are highly correlated with each other. Findings from data-driven methods suggest that these evaluations can be represented within a two-dimensional space defined by valence and dominance evaluation of faces. Computer modeling findings suggest that whereas valence evaluation is based on facial cues resembling emotional expressions signaling approach/avoidance behavior, dominance evaluation is based on cues signaling physical strength. Additional behavioral and computer modeling studies provide convergent evidence that evaluation of emotionally neutral faces is rooted in adaptive mechanisms for inferring emotional states and corresponding behavioral intentions. The two-dimensional model provides a unifying framework for the study of face evaluation. In light of this framework, a re-analysis of functional neuroimaging data from an implicit face evaluation paradigm has showed that the amygdala (1) is engaged in general valence evaluation rather than in specific trait evaluations of faces; and (2) modulates the activity in perceptual areas in temporal and occipital cortices.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationSocial Neuroscience
Subtitle of host publicationToward Understanding the Underpinnings of the Social Mind
PublisherOxford University Press
ISBN (Electronic)9780199893324
ISBN (Print)9780195316872
StatePublished - May 1 2011

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Psychology


  • Amygdala
  • Dominance evaluation
  • Face evaluation
  • Neuroimaging studies
  • Valence evaluation


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