Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience
Face evaluation is a key aspect of face processing in humans, serving important functions in regulating social interactions. Adults and preschool children readily evaluate faces with respect to a person's trustworthiness and dominance. However, it is unclear whether face evaluation is mainly a product of extensive learning or a foundational building block of face perception already during infancy. We examined infants' sensitivity to facial signs of trustworthiness (Experiment 1) and dominance (Experiment 2) by measuring ERPs and looking behavior in response to faces that varied with respect to the two facial attributes. Results revealed that 7-month-old infants are sensitive to facial signs of trustworthiness but not dominance. This sensitivity was reflected in infants' behavioral preference and in the modulation of brain responses previously linked to emotion detection from faces. These findings provide first evidence that processing faces with respect to trustworthiness has its origins in infancy and shed light on the behavioral and neural correlates of this early emerging sensitivity.