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A Neurocomputational Model of Altruistic Choice and Its Implications

Hutcherson, Cendri A. and Bushong, Benjamin and Rangel, Antonio (2015) A Neurocomputational Model of Altruistic Choice and Its Implications. Neuron, 87 (2). pp. 451-462. ISSN 0896-6273. PMCID PMC4947370. doi:10.1016/j.neuron.2015.06.031.

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We propose a neurocomputational model of altruistic choice and test it using behavioral and fMRI data from a task in which subjects make choices between real monetary prizes for themselves and another. We show that a multi-attribute drift-diffusion model, in which choice results from accumulation of a relative value signal that linearly weights payoffs for self and other, captures key patterns of choice, reaction time, and neural response in ventral striatum, temporoparietal junction, and ventromedial prefrontal cortex. The model generates several novel insights into the nature of altruism. It explains when and why generous choices are slower or faster than selfish choices, and why they produce greater response in TPJ and vmPFC, without invoking competition between automatic and deliberative processes or reward value for generosity. It also predicts that when one’s own payoffs are valued more than others’, some generous acts may reflect mistakes rather than genuinely pro-social preferences.

Item Type:Article
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URLURL TypeDescription CentralArticle
Hutcherson, Cendri A.0000-0002-4441-4809
Additional Information:© 2015 Elsevier Inc. Received: September 2, 2014; Revised: March 17, 2015; Accepted: June 23, 2015; Published: July 15, 2015. Matthew Rabin was an earlier collaborator on this project, which benefited greatly from his insight. This research was supported by NSF-IGERT (B.B.), NSF-Economics (A.R.), NSF-DRMS (A.R.), the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation (A.R., C.A.H.), and the Lipper Foundation (A.R.). We thank John Clithero and Anita Tusche for helpful comments. Author Contributions: C.A.H., B.B., and A.R. designed the experiment. C.A.H. and B.B. collected the data. C.A.H. developed the model and its predictions. C.A.H. analyzed the data. C.A.H., B.B., and A.R. wrote the paper.
Funding AgencyGrant Number
Gordon and Betty Moore FoundationUNSPECIFIED
Lipper FoundationUNSPECIFIED
Issue or Number:2
PubMed Central ID:PMC4947370
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20150721-095400025
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Official Citation:Cendri A. Hutcherson, Benjamin Bushong, Antonio Rangel, A Neurocomputational Model of Altruistic Choice and Its Implications, Neuron, Volume 87, Issue 2, 15 July 2015, Pages 451-462, ISSN 0896-6273, (
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:58960
Deposited By: Tony Diaz
Deposited On:21 Jul 2015 20:41
Last Modified:10 Nov 2021 22:13

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