Catecholaminergic modulation of trust decisions

Cătălina E Rățală, Sean J Fallon, Marieke E van der Schaaf, Niels Ter Huurne, Roshan Cools, Alan G Sanfey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
120 Downloads (Pure)


RATIONALE: Trust is a key component of social interactions. In order to assess the trustworthiness of others, people rely on both information learned from previous encounters, as well as on implicit biases associated with specific facial features.

OBJECTIVE: Here, we investigated the role of catecholamine (dopamine and noradrenaline) transmission on trust decisions as a function of both experienced behavior and facial features.

METHODS: To increase catecholamine levels, methylphenidate (MPH, i.e., Ritalin®, 20 mg) was administered to participants (N = 24) prior to their playing a well-studied economic task, namely the Trust Game (Berg et al. 1995). We measured the amount of money invested with a variety of game partners. Across game partners, we manipulated two aspects of trust: the facial trust level (high facial trust, low facial trust, and non-social) and the likelihood of reciprocation (high, low).

RESULTS: Results demonstrated no main effect of MPH on investments, but rather a selective lowering of investments under MPH as compared with placebo with the game partners who were low on facial trustworthiness and were low reciprocators.

CONCLUSION: These results provide evidence that MPH administration impacts social trust decision-making, but does so in a context-specific manner.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1807-1816
Number of pages10
Issue number6
Early online date31 Jan 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2019


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