Is trustworthiness lateralized in the face? Evidence from a trust game

Daniel J. Carragher, Nicole A. Thomas, Michael E.R. Nicholls

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


A turn of the head can be used to convey or conceal emotion, as the left side of the face is more expressive than the right. As the left cheek moves more when smiling, the present study investigated whether perceived trustworthiness is lateralized to the left cheek, using a trust game paradigm. In Experiment 1, participants were asked to share money with male and female “virtual partners.” Left–left or right–right composite faces were used to represent the partners. There were no differences in the amount shared based on composite face, suggesting trustworthiness is not lateralized in the face. However, there was a robust effect whereby female partners were perceived to be significantly more trustworthy than males. In Experiment 2, the virtual partners presented either the left or the right cheek prominently. As in Experiment 1, the amount shared with the partners did not change depending on the cheek presented. Interestingly, female partners were again sent significantly more money than males. We found no support for lateralized trustworthiness in the face, suggesting that asymmetries in the face are not large enough to influence trustworthiness judgements. Instead, more stable facial features, such as sex-typical characteristics, appear to influence perceived trustworthiness.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)20-38
Number of pages19
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2 Jan 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • asymmetry
  • pose
  • social perception
  • Trust

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