Effects of a dopamine agonist on trusting behaviors in females

Gabriele Bellucci*, Thomas F. Münte, Soyoung Q. Park

*Corresponding author for this work


Trust is central to bonding and cooperation. In many social interactions, individuals need to trust another person exclusively on the basis of their subjective impressions of the other’s trustworthiness. Such impressions can be formed from social information from faces (e.g., facial trustworthiness and attractiveness) and guide trusting behaviors via activations of dopaminergic brain regions. However, the specific dopaminergic effects on impression-based trust are to date elusive. Here, in a double-blind, placebo-controlled, within-subject design, we administrated a D2/D3 dopamine agonist (pramipexole) to 28 healthy females who subsequently played a one-shot trust game with partners of varying facial trustworthiness. Our results show that by minimizing facial attractiveness information, we could isolate the specific effects of facial trustworthiness on trust in unknown partners. Despite no modulation of trustworthiness impressions, pramipexole intake significantly impacted trusting behaviors. Notably, these effects of pramipexole on trusting behaviors interacted with participants’ hormonal contraceptive use. In particular, after pramipexole intake, trust significantly decreased in hormonal contraceptive non-users. This study fills an important gap in the experimental literature on trust and its neural dynamics, unearthing the cognitive and neural modulations of trusting behaviors based on trustworthiness impressions of others.

Original languageEnglish
Issue number6
Pages (from-to)1671-1680
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished - 01.06.2020

Research Areas and Centers

  • Academic Focus: Center for Brain, Behavior and Metabolism (CBBM)


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