Task-invariant brain responses to the social value of faces

Alexander Todorov, Christopher P. Said, Nikolaas N. Oosterhof, Andrew D. Engell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

49 Scopus citations


In two fMRI experiments (n = 44) using tasks with different demands-approach-avoidance versus one-back recognition decisions-we measured the responses to the social value of faces. The face stimuli were produced by a parametric model of face evaluation that reduces multiple social evaluations to two orthogonal dimensions of valence and power [Oosterhof, N. N., and amp; Todorov, A. The functional basis of face evaluation. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, U.S.A., 105, 11087-11092, 2008]. Independent of the task, the response within regions of the occipital, fusiform, and lateral prefrontal cortices was sensitive to the valence dimension, with larger responses to low-valence faces. Additionally, there were extensive quadratic responses in the fusiform gyri and dorsal amygdala, with larger responses to faces at the extremes of the face valence continuum than faces in the middle. In all these regions, participants' avoidance decisions correlated with brain responses, with faces more likely to be avoided evoking stronger responses. The findings suggest that both explicit and implicit face evaluation engage multiple brain regions involved in attention, affect, and decision making.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2766-2781
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of cognitive neuroscience
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2011

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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