Enhanced memory for the wolf in sheep's clothing: Facial trustworthiness modulates face-trait associative memory

Atsunobu Suzuki, Sayaka Suga

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

63 Citations (Scopus)


Our decision about whether to trust and cooperate with someone is influenced by the individual's facial appearance despite its limited predictive power. Thus, remembering trustworthy-looking cheaters is more important than remembering untrustworthy-looking cheaters because we are more likely to trust and cooperate with the former, resulting in a higher risk of unreciprocated cooperation. The present study investigated whether our mind adaptively copes with this problem by enhancing memory for trustworthy-looking cheaters. Participants played a debt game, wherein they learned to discriminate among good, neutral, and bad lenders, who respectively charged no, moderate, and high interest on the debt. Each lender had either a trustworthy- or untrustworthy-looking face. A subsequent memory test revealed that participants remembered the bad traits of trustworthy-looking lenders more accurately than those of untrustworthy-looking lenders. The results demonstrate enhanced memory for trustworthy-looking cheaters, or wolves in sheep's clothing, implying that humans are equipped with protective mechanisms against disguised, unfaithful signs of trustworthiness.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)224-229
Number of pages6
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2010 Nov
Externally publishedYes


  • Cheater detection
  • Disguising
  • Face-trait associative memory
  • Facial trustworthiness

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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