Neural time course and brain sources of facial attractiveness vs. trustworthiness judgment
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Prior research has shown that the more (or less) attractive a face is judged, the more (or less) trustworthy the person is deemed and that some common neural networks are recruited during facial attractiveness and trustworthiness evaluation. To interpret the relationship between attractiveness and trustworthiness (e.g., whether perception of personal trustworthiness may depend on perception of facial attractiveness), we investigated their relative neural processing time course. An event-related potential (ERP) paradigm was used, with localization of brain sources of the scalp neural activity. Face stimuli with a neutral, angry, happy, or surprised expression were presented in an attractiveness judgment, a trustworthiness judgment, or a control (no explicit social judgment) task. Emotional facial expression processing occurred earlier (N170 and EPN, 150-290 ms post-stimulus onset) than attractiveness and trustworthiness processing (P3b, 400-700 ms). Importantly, right-central ERP (C2, C4, C6) differences reflecting discrimination between “yes” (attractive or trustworthy) and “no” (unattractive or untrustworthy) decisions occurred at least 400 ms earlier for attractiveness than for trustworthiness, in the absence of LRP motor preparation differences. Neural source analysis indicated that facial processing brain networks (e.g., LG, FG, and IPL—extending to pSTS), also right-lateralized, were involved in the discrimination time course differences. This suggests that attractiveness impressions precede and might prime trustworthiness inferences and that the neural time course differences reflect truly facial encoding processes.
KeywordsTrustworthiness Attractiveness Time course Event-related potential Brain sources Facial expression
The authors thank Patricia Alvarez-Plaza for their help in running the experiment.
This research was funded by the Spanish Ministerio de Economía y Competitividad, Grant PSI2014-54720-P, awarded to Manuel G. Calvo.
Compliance with ethical standards
Disclosure of interests
The authors declare no conflict of interests.
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