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Triangulating the Neural, Psychological, and Economic Bases of Guilt Aversion

Chang, Luke J. and Smith, Alec and Dufwenberg, Martin and Sanfey, Alan G. (2011) Triangulating the Neural, Psychological, and Economic Bases of Guilt Aversion. Neuron, 70 (3). pp. 560-572. ISSN 0896-6273.

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Why do people often choose to cooperate when they can better serve their interests by acting selfishly? One potential mechanism is that the anticipation of guilt can motivate cooperative behavior. We utilize a formal model of this process in conjunction with fMRI to identify brain regions that mediate cooperative behavior while participants decided whether or not to honor a partner's trust. We observed increased activation in the insula, supplementary motor area, dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (PFC), and temporal parietal junction when participants were behaving consistent with our model, and found increased activity in the ventromedial PFC, dorsomedial PFC, and nucleus accumbens when they chose to abuse trust and maximize their financial reward. This study demonstrates that a neural system previously implicated in expectation processing plays a critical role in assessing moral sentiments that in turn can sustain human cooperation in the face of temptation.

Item Type:Article
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Smith, Alec0000-0002-1938-4660
Additional Information:© 2011 Elsevier Inc. Accepted 25 February 2011. Published: May 11, 2011. Available online 11 May 2011. We thank Matt Kleinman for his help in collecting the data and Drs. Anouk Scheres, James Rilling, and Lynn Nadel for their helpful comments. We would like to acknowledge funding from the National Institute of Aging (R21AG030768) to A.G.S., the National Institute of Mental Health (R03MH077058) to A.G.S. and (F31MH085465) to L.J.C., and the National Science Foundation to M.D.
Funding AgencyGrant Number
National Institute of AgingR21AG030768
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)R03MH077058
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)F31MH085465
Issue or Number:3
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20110606-092340689
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Official Citation:Luke J. Chang, Alec Smith, Martin Dufwenberg, Alan G. Sanfey, Triangulating the Neural, Psychological, and Economic Bases of Guilt Aversion, Neuron, Volume 70, Issue 3, 12 May 2011, Pages 560-572, ISSN 0896-6273, DOI: 10.1016/j.neuron.2011.02.056. (
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:23912
Deposited By: Ruth Sustaita
Deposited On:06 Jun 2011 16:46
Last Modified:09 Mar 2020 13:19

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