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The neural signature of social norm compliance


Spitzer, M; Fischbacher, U; Herrnberger, B; Grön, G; Fehr, Ernst (2007). The neural signature of social norm compliance. Neuron, 56(1):185-196.

Abstract

All known human societies establish social order by punishing violators of social norms. However, little is known about how the human brain processes the punishment threat associated with norm violations. We use fMRI to study the neural circuitry behind forced norm compliance by comparing a treatment in which norm violations can be punished with a control treatment in which punishment is impossible. Individuals’ increase in norm compliance when punishment is possible exhibits a strong positive correlation with activations in the lateral orbitofrontal cortex and right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex. These
activations are also modulated by the social nature of the task. Moreover, activation in lateral orbitofrontal cortex shows a strong positive correlation with Machiavellian personality characteristics. These findings indicate a neural network involved in forced norm compliance that may constitute an important basis for human sociality. Different activations of this network reveal individual differences in the behavioral response to the punishment threat and may thus provide a deeper understanding of the neurobiological sources of pathologies such as antisocial personality disorder.

All known human societies establish social order by punishing violators of social norms. However, little is known about how the human brain processes the punishment threat associated with norm violations. We use fMRI to study the neural circuitry behind forced norm compliance by comparing a treatment in which norm violations can be punished with a control treatment in which punishment is impossible. Individuals’ increase in norm compliance when punishment is possible exhibits a strong positive correlation with activations in the lateral orbitofrontal cortex and right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex. These
activations are also modulated by the social nature of the task. Moreover, activation in lateral orbitofrontal cortex shows a strong positive correlation with Machiavellian personality characteristics. These findings indicate a neural network involved in forced norm compliance that may constitute an important basis for human sociality. Different activations of this network reveal individual differences in the behavioral response to the punishment threat and may thus provide a deeper understanding of the neurobiological sources of pathologies such as antisocial personality disorder.

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184 citations in Web of Science®
211 citations in Scopus®
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Additional indexing

Other titles:The neural signature of forced norm compliance (running title)
Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:03 Faculty of Economics > Department of Economics
Dewey Decimal Classification:330 Economics
Language:English
Date:2007
Deposited On:27 Mar 2009 13:25
Last Modified:05 Apr 2016 12:28
Publisher:Elsevier
ISSN:0896-6273
Additional Information:Comment in: Neuron. 2007 Oct 4;56(1):14-8.
Publisher DOI:10.1016/j.neuron.2007.09.011
PubMed ID:17920024
Permanent URL: http://doi.org/10.5167/uzh-3834

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