Brain Structure and Function

, Volume 215, Issue 3–4, pp 209–223 | Cite as

ALE meta-analysis on facial judgments of trustworthiness and attractiveness

  • D. Bzdok
  • R. Langner
  • S. Caspers
  • F. Kurth
  • U. Habel
  • K. Zilles
  • A. Laird
  • Simon B. EickhoffEmail author
Original Article


Faces convey a multitude of information in social interaction, among which are trustworthiness and attractiveness. Humans process and evaluate these two dimensions very quickly due to their great adaptive importance. Trustworthiness evaluation is crucial for modulating behavior toward strangers; attractiveness evaluation is a crucial factor for mate selection, possibly providing cues for reproductive success. As both dimensions rapidly guide social behavior, this study tests the hypothesis that both judgments may be subserved by overlapping brain networks. To this end, we conducted an activation likelihood estimation meta-analysis on 16 functional magnetic resonance imaging studies pertaining to facial judgments of trustworthiness and attractiveness. Throughout combined, individual, and conjunction analyses on those two facial judgments, we observed consistent maxima in the amygdala which corroborates our initial hypothesis. This finding supports the contemporary paradigm shift extending the amygdala’s role from dominantly processing negative emotional stimuli to processing socially relevant ones. We speculate that the amygdala filters sensory information with evolutionarily conserved relevance. Our data suggest that such a role includes not only “fight-or-flight” decisions but also social behaviors with longer term pay-off schedules, e.g., trustworthiness and attractiveness evaluation.


fMRI Meta-analysis Attractiveness Trustworthiness Amygdala 



This study was supported by the German Research Council (DFG, IRTG 1328, KZ, SBE, DB), the Human Brain Project (R01-MH074457-01A1), and the Helmholtz Initiative on Systems-Biology “The Human Brain Model” (KZ, SBE).

Conflict of interest

The authors declare no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • D. Bzdok
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
    • 4
  • R. Langner
    • 1
    • 2
    • 4
  • S. Caspers
    • 2
    • 4
  • F. Kurth
    • 5
  • U. Habel
    • 1
    • 3
    • 4
  • K. Zilles
    • 2
    • 4
    • 6
  • A. Laird
    • 7
  • Simon B. Eickhoff
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
    • 4
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of Psychiatry and PsychotherapyRWTH Aachen UniversityAachenGermany
  2. 2.Institute of Neuroscience and Medicine (INM-2)Research Center JülichJülichGermany
  3. 3.International Research Training Group “Schizophrenia and Autism” (IRTG 1328)AachenGermany
  4. 4.Jülich-Aachen Research Alliance (JARA)-Translational Brain MedicineAachenGermany
  5. 5.Department of Psychiatry, Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human BehaviorDavid Geffen School of Medicine at University of CaliforniaLos AngelesUSA
  6. 6.C. & O. Vogt Institute of Brain ResearchUniversity of DüsseldorfDüsseldorfGermany
  7. 7.Research Imaging InstituteUniversity of Texas Health Sciences CenterSan AntonioUSA

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