Welcome to the new version of CaltechAUTHORS. Login is currently restricted to library staff. If you notice any issues, please email coda@library.caltech.edu
Published March 5, 2012 | public
Journal Article

Race and reputation: perceived racial group trustworthiness influences the neural correlates of trust decisions


Decisions to trust people with whom we have no personal history can be based on their social reputation—a product of what we can observe about them (their appearance, social group membership, etc.)—and our own beliefs. The striatum and amygdala have been identified as regions of the brain involved in trust decisions and trustworthiness estimation, respectively. However, it is unknown whether social reputation based on group membership modulates the involvement of these regions during trust decisions. To investigate this, we examined blood-oxygenation-level-dependent (BOLD) activity while participants completed a series of single-shot trust game interactions with real partners of varying races. At the time of choice, baseline BOLD responses in the striatum correlated with individuals' trust bias—that is, the overall disparity in decisions to trust Black versus White partners. BOLD signal in the striatum was higher when deciding to trust partners from the race group that the individual participant considered less trustworthy overall. In contrast, activation of the amygdala showed greater BOLD responses to Black versus White partners that scaled with the amount invested. These results suggest that the amygdala may represent emotionally relevant social group information as a subset of the general detection function it serves, whereas the striatum is involved in representing race-based reputations that shape trust decisions.

Additional Information

© 2012 The Royal Society. All procedures were approved by the University Committee on Activities Involving Human Subjects at New York University. The collection of photos and responses for the trustee partner database was additionally approved by the Institutional Review Board of Rutgers University. We thank K. Sanzenbach and the Center for Brain Imaging at New York University for technical assistance. This work was supported by a grant from the Macarthur Foundation Law and Neuroscience Network.

Additional details

August 22, 2023
October 24, 2023