Should I trust you? Autistic traits predict reduced appearance-based trust decisions

Jasmine J. Hooper, Clare A. M. Sutherland, Louise Ewing, Robyn Langdon, Nathan Caruana, Emily Connaughton, Nikolas Williams, Jayden Greenwell-Barnden, Gillian Rhodes

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    3 Citations (Scopus)

    Abstract

    Facial impressions of trustworthiness guide social decisions in the general population, as shown by financial lending in economic Trust Games. As an exception, autistic boys fail to use facial impressions to guide trust decisions, despite forming typical facial trustworthiness impressions (Autism, 19, 2015a, 1002). Here, we tested whether this dissociation between forming and using facial impressions of trustworthiness extends to neurotypical men with high levels of autistic traits. Forty-six Caucasian men completed a multi-turn Trust Game, a facial trustworthiness impressions task, the Autism-Spectrum Quotient, and two Theory of Mind tasks. As hypothesized, participants’ levels of autistic traits had no observed effect on the impressions formed, but negatively predicted the use of those impressions in trust decisions. Thus, the dissociation between forming and using facial impressions of trustworthiness extends to the broader autism phenotype. More broadly, our results identify autistic traits as an important source of individual variation in the use of facial impressions to guide behaviour. Interestingly, failure to use these impressions could potentially represent rational behaviour, given their limited validity.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)617-634
    Number of pages18
    JournalBritish Journal of Psychology
    Volume110
    Issue number4
    Early online date13 Nov 2018
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - Nov 2019

    Keywords

    • autistic traits
    • broader autistic phenotype
    • facial impressions
    • facial trustworthiness
    • individual differences
    • trust behaviour

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