Journal Article

Activity in ventromedial prefrontal cortex co-varies with revealed social preferences: evidence for person-invariant value

Jamil Zaki, Gilberto López and Jason P. Mitchell

in Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience

Volume 9, issue 4, pages 464-469
Published in print April 2014 | ISSN: 1749-5016
Published online January 2013 | e-ISSN: 1749-5024 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/scan/nst005
Activity in ventromedial prefrontal cortex co-varies with revealed social preferences: evidence for person-invariant value

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Although altruistic and selfish behaviors seem fundamentally incommensurable humans regularly choose between them. One model of such choices suggests that individuals ascribe a common form of subjective value to their own outcomes and those of others. To test this ‘person invariance’ hypothesis, we asked individuals to choose between allocating varying amounts of money to themselves or to a partner. Participants’ choice patterns provided an estimate of the relative value they placed on their own and others’ gains. These estimates were used to isolate neural activity correlating with the subjective value of gains irrespective of the recipient (self or other) during a separate set of trials in which rewards were offered only to the self or partner. Activity in ventromedial prefrontal cortex scaled with this person-invariant value parameter, consistent with earlier demonstrations that this region supports common value computation. These data suggest that individuals reduce the value associated with their own and others’ experiences to a common subjective scale, which is used to guide social decision-making.

Keywords: prosociality; altruism; value; ventromedial prefrontal cortex; decision-making

Journal Article.  5441 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Cognition and Behavioural Neuroscience

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