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The impact of faces on forming opinions of others has attracted a great deal of
interest. Recognizing one's friend or foe quickly provides a unique evolutionary
advantage, and as a result humans have specialized brain regions for the processing
of faces [ 70 ]. Furthermore, people tend to make very quick assessment of faces
without much cognitive effort; a 33 ms exposure to a face is sufficient for them
to decide whether the face is trustworthy or not [ 76 ]. Regions of brain that are
responsible for emotion and decision making are activated when a person looks at
negatively perceived, i.e., untrustworthy faces. The emotional reactions aroused by
the processing of faces, friend or foe, allow people to direct their attention to likely
friends and stay away from harm. An even more interesting finding is that people
tend to agree on their social judgments of the faces [ 76 ]. Similar to the case of
second-hand information, individuals who have been shown faces with a specific
trustworthiness valence played a trust game. In the future games, the individuals
continued to rely on the impression formed by the faces, in some studies more than
the actual behavior they observed [ 74 ]. In other studies, the valence assigned to
faces changed as a function of observed behavior [ 67 ].
Firsthand experiences, especially those obtained from observing the behavior of
others form a basis for judging their trustworthiness. The studies discussed earlier
aim to understand how much people rely on observed behavior in judging others'
future behavior. In the case of evaluations based on faces, the trustor is reconciling
two different systems of evaluation: memory based and effortful in the case of
processing behavioral information vs. perceptual, emotional and cheap to evaluate
in the case of facial information. In fact, the experiments show that people rely
on these two evaluations with different weights, perceptual evaluations playing
an important and lasting role. In the case of second-hand information, the trustor
chooses between the reliability of her own observations and the trustworthiness of
the source of second-hand information. Even when the information is presented
without citing a specific source, the trustor can substitute her trust for the examiner
as a way to judge the credibility of the information source. In both cases, the trustor
learns from firsthand experiences, but other sources have a significant impact in trust
A recent study [ 6 ] aims to understand how firsthand experiences are integrated
into the initial trustworthiness beliefs obtained from facial impressions. The model
that best explains the observed behavior suggests that first impressions are used as
a lens in which the feedback obtained from firsthand experience is evaluated. If the
evidence confirms the initial impressions, it is believed more easily. Otherwise, it
has a limited effect and the learning is much slower. This process changes the initial
impressions, which in turn has an effect on the processing of future evidence.
Studies also elaborate on the differences between trustworthiness and ability
judgments. The common signals used to make an inference about ability have to do
with the status of the other person as well as his perceived facial dominance [ 17 ].
Research also sheds light on how trustworthiness and ability impact behavior at the
cognitive level [ 17 ]. Trustworthiness perceived as warmth and friendship is judged
before competence. As a result, trustworthiness evaluations carry more weight
in both emotional and behavioral reactions. The judgment of friendship is easily
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