ISSN 1671-3710
CN 11-4766/R

Advances in Psychological Science ›› 2022, Vol. 30 ›› Issue (4): 715-722.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1042.2022.00715

• Conceptual Framework •     Next Articles

Regulation of facial trustworthiness evaluation: The proposal and empirical verification of the experience transfer hypothesis

QI Yue(), QIN Shaotian, WANG Kexin, CHEN Wenfeng   

  1. The Department of Psychology, Renmin University of China;The Laboratory of the Department of Psychology, Renmin University of China, Beijing 100872, China
  • Received:2021-08-27 Online:2022-04-15 Published:2022-02-22
  • Contact: QI Yue


The impression of trustworthiness based on facial appearance plays an important role in interpersonal trust and cooperative behavior. Previous research results have indicated that a variety of additional information (e.g., facial features, context) could affect facial judgments by both bottom-up and top-down processes. However, the mechanism of the two adjustment factors is still unclear. Focusing on this issue, our previous research has found that the top-down process is dominant when both approaches work together. Based on previous findings, the current research proposes the “experience transfer hypothesis”, that is, whether additional information could adjust the trustworthy evaluation of the current face is depended on the evaluator’s previous experience and its generalization results. Experience generalization determines the success of experience transfer. When new cues are lack of similarity to the cues from previous experiences or when previous cues are not strongly associated with the propensity to trust, the experience of trust will not be transferred to the new condition and thus the adjustment factors will fail. When people face two conflicting adjustment cues, the cue which is more similar to the previous cues that are closely related to trust tendencies will dominate the adjustment effect. Under the experience transfer hypothesis framework, this research will design and conduct behavioral experiments to verify the critical role of previous experience in adjusting facial trustworthiness. At the same time, we will use neuroimaging techniques to explore the cognitive neural mechanism of facial trustworthiness adjustment. For this purpose, three studies have been designed in the present research. Study 1 is designed to investigate the cognitive mechanism of the bottom-up and top-down adjustment factors and verify the moderating effect of experience transfer on the evaluation of facial trustworthiness. Regarding the adjustment effect, Study 2 will explore the boundary conditions of experience transfer from three different aspects: the similarity of visual cues, the correlation between visual cues and the tendency to trust, and the contrast effect of different visual cues. Referring to the adjustment process, by using neuroimaging techniques, Study 3 will explore the influence of adjustment direction, and clarify the neural mechanism of facial trustworthiness evaluation.

This project proposes the “experience transfer hypothesis” theoretically and introduces the variable “experience” into the process of facial evaluation adjustment, providing new ideas and empirical evidence to deepen our understanding of how interpersonal trust builds. Moreover, this research will systematically answer the question that how people use previous experiences to adjust the evaluation of facial trustworthiness on a given first impression. We will explore the boundary conditions of experience transfer, the influence of adjustment directions on the evaluation of facial trustworthiness, and find out the reason for the failure of facial evaluation adjustments. The solution to the above problems will help to deepen the exploration of the mechanism of trust behavior and improve the theory of facial evaluation. It has important theoretical significance for our in-depth understanding and discussion of the regulation mechanism of interpersonal trust. Meanwhile, it can help people improve interpersonal trust while maintaining their original appearance through the establishment of external experience. This research will provide the empirical basis for further prediction and adjustment of interpersonal trust behavior, offer suggestions for creating a harmonious and credible interpersonal relationship and social atmosphere, and guide people to adjust their own trust levels more effectively.

Key words: trust, moderating effect, facial trustworthiness, impression formation

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