Shared Perceptual Basis of Emotional Expressions and Trustworthiness Impressions From Faces

Nikolaas N. Oosterhof, Alexander Todorov

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

250 Scopus citations


Using a dynamic stimuli paradigm, in which faces expressed either happiness or anger, the authors tested the hypothesis that perceptions of trustworthiness are related to these expressions. Although the same emotional intensity was added to both trustworthy and untrustworthy faces, trustworthy faces who expressed happiness were perceived as happier than untrustworthy faces, and untrustworthy faces who expressed anger were perceived as angrier than trustworthy faces. The authors also manipulated changes in face trustworthiness simultaneously with the change in expression. Whereas transitions in face trustworthiness in the direction of the expressed emotion (e.g., high-to-low trustworthiness and anger) increased the perceived intensity of the emotion, transitions in the opposite direction decreased this intensity. For example, changes from high to low trustworthiness increased the intensity of perceived anger but decreased the intensity of perceived happiness. These findings support the hypothesis that changes along the trustworthiness dimension correspond to subtle changes resembling expressions signaling whether the person displaying the emotion should be avoided or approached.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)128-133
Number of pages6
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2009

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Psychology


  • dynamic stimuli
  • emotions
  • face perception
  • overgeneralization
  • trustworthiness


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