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Social discounting involves modulation of neural value signals by temporoparietal junction


Strombach, Tina; Weber, Bernd; Hangebrauk, Zsofia; Kenning, Peter; Karipidis, Iliana I; Tobler, Philippe N; Kalenscher, Tobias (2015). Social discounting involves modulation of neural value signals by temporoparietal junction. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 112(5):1619-1624.

Abstract

Most people are generous, but not toward everyone alike: generosity usually declines with social distance between individuals, a phenomenon called social discounting. Despite the pervasiveness of social discounting, social distance between actors has been surprisingly neglected in economic theory and neuroscientific research. We used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to study the neural basis of this process to understand the neural underpinnings of social decision making. Participants chose between selfish and generous alternatives, yielding either a large reward for the participant alone, or smaller rewards for the participant and another individual at a particular social distance. We found that generous choices engaged the temporoparietal junction (TPJ). In particular, the TPJ activity was scaled to the social-distance-dependent conflict between selfish and generous motives during prosocial choice, consistent with ideas that the TPJ promotes generosity by facilitating overcoming egoism bias. Based on functional coupling data, we propose and provide evidence for a biologically plausible neural model according to which the TPJ supports social discounting by modulating basic neural value signals in the ventromedial prefrontal cortex to incorporate social-distance-dependent other-regarding preferences into an otherwise exclusively own-reward value representation.

Abstract

Most people are generous, but not toward everyone alike: generosity usually declines with social distance between individuals, a phenomenon called social discounting. Despite the pervasiveness of social discounting, social distance between actors has been surprisingly neglected in economic theory and neuroscientific research. We used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to study the neural basis of this process to understand the neural underpinnings of social decision making. Participants chose between selfish and generous alternatives, yielding either a large reward for the participant alone, or smaller rewards for the participant and another individual at a particular social distance. We found that generous choices engaged the temporoparietal junction (TPJ). In particular, the TPJ activity was scaled to the social-distance-dependent conflict between selfish and generous motives during prosocial choice, consistent with ideas that the TPJ promotes generosity by facilitating overcoming egoism bias. Based on functional coupling data, we propose and provide evidence for a biologically plausible neural model according to which the TPJ supports social discounting by modulating basic neural value signals in the ventromedial prefrontal cortex to incorporate social-distance-dependent other-regarding preferences into an otherwise exclusively own-reward value representation.

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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:3 February 2015
Deposited On:28 May 2015 07:24
Last Modified:05 Apr 2016 19:16
Publisher:National Academy of Sciences
ISSN:0027-8424
Free access at:PubMed ID. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1414715112
PubMed ID:25605887

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