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Accurate assessment of trustworthiness is fundamental to successful and adaptive social behavior. Initially, people assess trustworthiness from facial appearance alone. These assessments then inform critical approach or avoid decisions. Individuals with Williams Syndrome (WS) exhibit a heightened social drive, especially towards strangers. This study investigated the temporal dynamics of facial trustworthiness evaluation in neurotypic adults (TD) and individuals with WS. We examined whether differences in neural activity during trustworthiness evaluation may explain increased approach motivation in WS compared to TD individuals. Event-related potentials were recorded while participants appraised faces previously rated as trustworthy or untrustworthy. TD participants showed increased early activation to untrustworthy faces, indexed by the C1, which was correlated with low approachability scores. In contrast, participants with WS showed increased N170 amplitudes to trustworthy faces. The N170 difference to low – high trust faces was correlated with low approachability in TD and high approachability in WS. The findings suggest that the genetic deletion in WS associated with hypersociability may arise from abnormalities in the timing and organization of early visual brain activity during trustworthiness evaluation. More generally, the study provides support for the hypothesis that impairments in low level perceptual processes can have a cascading effect on social cognition.


  • Trustworthiness, Event-related potentials (ERP), Face perception, WIlliams syndrome, Approach behavior, Trust
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1002-1017
Number of pages16
JournalCognitive, Affective and Behavioural Neuroscience
Issue number5
Early online date6 Jul 2017
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2017

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