A Neural Mechanism of Strategic Social Choice under Sanction-Induced Norm Compliance1,2,3


In recent years, much has been learned about the representation of subjective value in simple, nonstrategic choices. However, a large fraction of our daily decisions are embedded in social interactions in which value guided decisions require balancing benefits for self against consequences imposed by others in response to our choices. Yet, despite their ubiquity, much less is known about how value computation takes place in strategic social contexts that include the possibility of retribution for norm violations. Here, we used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to show that when human subjects face such a context connectivity increases between the temporoparietal junction (TPJ), implicated in the representation of other peoples' thoughts and intentions, and regions of ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC) that are associated with value computation. In contrast, we find no increase in connectivity between these regions in social nonstrategic cases where decision-makers are immune from retributive monetary punishments from a human partner. Moreover, there was also no increase in TPJ-vmPFC connectivity when the potential punishment was performed by a computer programmed to punish fairness norm violations in the same manner as a human would. Thus, TPJ-vmPFC connectivity is not simply a function of the social or norm enforcing nature of the decision, but rather occurs specifically in situations where subjects make decisions in a social context and strategically consider putative consequences imposed by others.

DOI: 10.1523/ENEURO.0066-14.2015

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@inproceedings{Makwana2015ANM, title={A Neural Mechanism of Strategic Social Choice under Sanction-Induced Norm Compliance1,2,3}, author={Aidan B. Makwana and Georg Gr{\"{o}n and Ernst Fehr and Todd A. Hare}, booktitle={eNeuro}, year={2015} }