Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Neural correlates of vicarious reward.

Interesting observations from Mobbs et al. The experiments involved brain imaging of participants reacting to game winning by contestants with whom they were or were not sympathetic. Their abstract (slightly edited):
Humans appear to have an inherent prosocial tendency toward one another in that we often take pleasure in seeing others succeed. This fact is almost certainly exploited by game shows, yet why watching others win elicits a pleasurable vicarious rewarding feeling in the absence of personal economic gain is unclear. One explanation is that game shows use contestants who have similarities to the viewing population, thereby kindling kin-motivated responses (for example, prosocial behavior). Using a game show–inspired paradigm, we show that the interactions between the ventral striatum and anterior cingulate cortex subserve the modulation of vicarious reward by similarity, respectively. Our results support studies showing that similarity acts as a proximate neurobiological mechanism where prosocial behavior extends to unrelated strangers.

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