Common neural mechanisms for the evaluation of facial trustworthiness and emotional expressions as revealed by behavioral adaptation
People rapidly and automatically evaluate faces along many social dimensions. Here,we focus on judgments of trustworthiness, which approximate basic valence evaluation of faces, and test whether these judgments are an overgeneralization of the perception of emotional expressions. We used a behavioral adaptation paradigm to investigate whether the previously noted perceptual similarities between trustworthiness and emotional expressions of anger and happiness extend to their underlying neural representations. We found that adapting to angry or happy facial expressions causes trustworthiness evaluations of subsequently rated neutral faces to increase or decrease, respectively. Further, we found no such modulation of trustworthiness evaluations after participants were adapted to fearful expressions, suggesting that this effect is specific to angry and happy expressions. We conclude that, in line with the overgeneralization hypothesis, a common neural system is engaged during the evaluation of facial trustworthiness and expressions of anger and happiness.
Engell A.D., Todorov, A., and Haxby J.V. (2010). Common neural mechanisms for the evaluation of facial trustworthiness and emotional expressions as revealed by behavioral adaptation.Perception, 39, 931-41