The Dorsomedial Prefrontal Cortex Plays a Causal Role in Integrating Social Impressions from Faces and Verbal Descriptions

Chiara Ferrari, Carlotta Lega, Mirta Vernice, Marco Tamietto, Peter Mende-Siedlecki, Tomaso Vecchi, Alexander Todorov, Zaira Cattaneo

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74 Scopus citations


Several neuroimaging studies point to a key role of the dorsomedial prefrontal cortex (dmPFC) in the formation of socially relevant impressions. In 3 different experiments, participants were required to form socially relevant impressions about other individuals on the basis of text descriptions of their social behaviors, and to decide whether a face alone, a trait adjective (e.g., "selfish"), or a face presented with a trait adjective was consistent or inconsistent with the impression they had formed. Before deciding whether the target stimulus matched the impression they had previously formed, participants received transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) over the dmPFC, the inferior frontal gyrus (IFG, also implicated in social impression formation), or over a control site (vertex). Results from the 3 experiments converged in showing that interfering with dmPFC activity significantly delayed participants in responding whether a face-adjective pair was consistent with the impression they had formed. No effects of TMS were observed following stimulation of the IFG or when evaluations had to be made on faces or trait adjectives presented alone. Our findings critically extend previous neuroimaging evidence by indicating a causal role of the dmPFC in creating coherent impressions based on the integration of face and verbal description of social behaviors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)156-165
Number of pages10
JournalCerebral Cortex
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


  • TMS
  • dorsomedial prefrontal cortex
  • faces
  • impressions formation
  • inferior frontal gyrus
  • social inference
  • social traits


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