Children show neural sensitivity to facial trustworthiness as measured by fast periodic visual stimulation

Saba Siddique* (Corresponding Author), Clare A.M. Sutherland, Linda Jeffery, Derek Swe, O Scott Gwinn, Romina Palermo

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Adults exhibit neural responses over the visual occipito-temporal area in response to faces that vary in how trustworthy they appear. However, it is not yet known when a mature pattern of neural sensitivity can be seen in children. Using a fast periodic visual stimulation (FPVS) paradigm, face images were presented to 8-to-9-year-old children (an age group which shows development of trust impressions; N = 31) and adult (N = 33) participants at a rate of 6 Hz (6 face images per second). Within this sequence, an ‘oddball’ face differing in the level of facial trustworthiness compared to the other faces, was presented at a rate of 1 Hz (once per second). Children were sensitive to variations in facial trustworthiness, showing reliable and significant neural responses at 1 Hz in the absence of instructions to respond to facial trustworthiness. Additionally, the magnitude of children's and adults' neural responses was similar, with strong Bayesian evidence that implicit neural responses to facial trustworthiness did not differ across the groups, and therefore, that visual sensitivity to differences in facial trustworthiness can show mature patterns by this age. Thus, nine or less years of social experience, perceptual and/or cognitive development may be sufficient for adult-like neural sensitivity to facial trustworthiness to emerge. We also validate the use of the FPVS methodology to examine children's implicit face-based trust processing for the first time, which is especially valuable in developmental research because this paradigm requires no explicit instructions or responses from participants.
Original languageEnglish
Article number108488
Number of pages13
Early online date22 Jan 2023
Publication statusPublished - 10 Feb 2023

Bibliographical note

We would like to thank Mirha Khan for helping to test pilot participants.
This research was supported by an Australian Government Research Training Program Scholarship to SS, and Australian Research Council (ARC) Discovery Early Career Research Award to C.S. [DE190101043], ARC Discovery Project to C.S. and R.P. [DP220101026], and R.P. and L. J. [DP140101743].


  • Facial first impressions
  • Trustworthiness
  • EEG
  • Fast periodic visual stimulation
  • Development


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