Evidence for the modularity of trustworthiness detection in an economic game

Article in a refereed journal

Jean-François Bonnefon, Wim De Neys and Astrid Hopfensitz, "Evidence for the modularity of trustworthiness detection in an economic game", Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, vol. 142, n. 1, February 2013, p. 143-150. doi:10.1037/a0028930.


The capacity to trust wisely is a critical facilitator of success and prosperity, and it has been conjectured that people of higher intelligence are better able to detect signs of untrustworthiness from potential partners. In contrast, this article reports five trust game studies suggesting that reading trustworthiness of the faces of strangers is a modular process. Trustworthiness detection from faces is independent of general intelligence (Study 1) and effortless (Study 2). Pictures that include nonfacial features such as hair and clothing impair trustworthiness detection (Study 3) by increasing reliance on conscious judgments (Study 4), but people largely prefer to make decisions from this sort of pictures (Study 5). In sum, trustworthiness detection in an economic interaction is a genuine and effortless ability, possessed in equal amount by people of all cognitive capacities, but whose impenetrability leads to inaccurate conscious judgments and inappropriate informational preferences. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2013 APA, all rights reserved)

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