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Disrupting the prefrontal cortex diminishes the human ability to build a good reputation


Knoch, Daria; Schneider, Frédéric; Schunk, Daniel; Hohmann, Martin; Fehr, Ernst (2009). Disrupting the prefrontal cortex diminishes the human ability to build a good reputation. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS), 106(49):20895-20899.

Abstract

Reputation formation pervades human social life. In fact, many people go to great lengths to acquire a good reputation, even though building a good reputation is costly in many cases. Little is known about the neural underpinnings of this important social mechanism, however. In the present study, we show that disruption of the right, but not the left, lateral prefrontal cortex (PFC) with low-frequency repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) diminishes subjects' ability to build a favorable reputation. This effect occurs even though subjects' ability to behave altruistically in the absence of reputation incentives remains intact, and even though they are still able to recognize both the fairness standards necessary for acquiring and the future benefits of a good reputation. Thus, subjects with a disrupted right lateral PFC no longer seem to be able to resist the temptation to defect, even though they know that this has detrimental effects on their future reputation. This suggests an important dissociation between the knowledge about one's own best interests and the ability to act accordingly in social contexts. These results link findings on the neural underpinnings of self-control and temptation with the study of human social behavior, and they may help explain why reputation formation remains less prominent in most other species with less developed prefrontal cortices.

Reputation formation pervades human social life. In fact, many people go to great lengths to acquire a good reputation, even though building a good reputation is costly in many cases. Little is known about the neural underpinnings of this important social mechanism, however. In the present study, we show that disruption of the right, but not the left, lateral prefrontal cortex (PFC) with low-frequency repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) diminishes subjects' ability to build a favorable reputation. This effect occurs even though subjects' ability to behave altruistically in the absence of reputation incentives remains intact, and even though they are still able to recognize both the fairness standards necessary for acquiring and the future benefits of a good reputation. Thus, subjects with a disrupted right lateral PFC no longer seem to be able to resist the temptation to defect, even though they know that this has detrimental effects on their future reputation. This suggests an important dissociation between the knowledge about one's own best interests and the ability to act accordingly in social contexts. These results link findings on the neural underpinnings of self-control and temptation with the study of human social behavior, and they may help explain why reputation formation remains less prominent in most other species with less developed prefrontal cortices.

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55 citations in Web of Science®
60 citations in Scopus®
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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:03 Faculty of Economics > Department of Economics
Dewey Decimal Classification:330 Economics
Language:English
Date:December 2009
Deposited On:26 Jan 2010 10:40
Last Modified:05 Apr 2016 13:48
Publisher:National Academy of Sciences
ISSN:0027-8424
Additional Information:"Copyright: National Academy of Sciences USA". Zeitschrift ist frei zugänglich nach 6 Monaten.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.0911619106
Permanent URL: https://doi.org/10.5167/uzh-28483

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