Thursday, April 09, 2009

Neural mechanism of first impressions.

From Schiller et al:
Evaluating social others requires processing complex information. Nevertheless, we can rapidly form an opinion of an individual during an initial encounter. Moreover, people can vary in these opinions, even though the same information is provided. We investigated the brain mechanisms that give rise to the impressions that are formed on meeting a new person. Neuroimaging revealed that responses in the amygdala and the posterior cingulate cortex (PCC) were stronger while encoding social information that was consistent, relative to inconsistent, with subsequent evaluations. In addition, these responses scaled parametrically with the strength of evaluations. These findings provide evidence for encoding differences on the basis of subsequent evaluations, suggesting that the amygdala and PCC are important for forming first impressions.

Figure. (Click to enlarge) a - Functional regions of interest (ROIs) were identified by contrasting faces with person-descriptive sentences versus face-alone presentations. The dmPFC and left amygdala are denoted by yellow circle on the statistical activation map. b - To examine whether these ROIs show differential neural response to information that is relevant versus irrelevant to later evaluations, we extracted the BOLD response from each of these regions and compared the mean percentage BOLD signal change during the presentation of evaluation-relevant versus evaluation-irrelevant person-descriptive sentences. The differential score was calculated by subtracting evaluation-irrelevant from evaluation-relevant responses, so positive scores correspond to stronger responses to the evaluation-relevant information. A significant differential responding was shown by the PCC and the amygdala, but not by the dmPFC.

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