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Published February 25, 2015 | Published
Journal Article Open

A Causal Role for Posterior Medial Frontal Cortex in Choice-Induced Preference Change


After a person chooses between two items, preference for the chosen item will increase and preference for the unchosen item will decrease because of the choice made. In other words, we tend to justify or rationalize our past behavior by changing our attitude. This phenomenon of choice-induced preference change has been traditionally explained by cognitive dissonance theory. Choosing something that is disliked or not choosing something that is liked are both cognitively inconsistent and, to reduce this inconsistency, people tend to change their subsequently stated preference in accordance with their past choices. Previously, human neuroimaging studies identified posterior medial frontal cortex (pMFC) as a key brain region involved in cognitive dissonance. However, it remains unknown whether the pMFC plays a causal role in inducing preference change after cognitive dissonance. Here, we demonstrate that 25 min, 1 Hz repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation applied over the pMFC significantly reduces choice-induced preference change compared with sham stimulation or control stimulation over a different brain region, demonstrating a causal role for the pMFC.

Additional Information

© 2015 the authors. For the first six months after publication SfN's license will be exclusive. Beginning six months after publication the Work will be made freely available to the public on SfN's website to copy, distribute, or display under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) license (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/). Received Nov. 5, 2014; revised Jan. 6, 2015; accepted Jan. 16, 2015. This work was supported by the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science Fellows (to K.I.) and a Caltech Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (to S.A.). We thank Kevin Yang for help with pilot data collection and Ryuta Aoki for helpful comments on the manuscript. Author contributions: K.I., S.A., K.M., M.I., and R.A. designed research; K.I., S.A., and D.-A.W. performed research; K.I. and S.A. analyzed data; K.I., S.A., D.-A.W., and R.A. wrote the paper.

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August 22, 2023
August 22, 2023