Friday, June 08, 2012

Different sorts of suspicion - brain correlates

Bhatt et al. (open access) show brain correlates of the distinction between suspicion based on a person’s general beliefs about people in the world and the situation at hand, versus suspicion that is generated by the behavior of other people:
Humans assess the credibility of information gained from others on a daily basis; this ongoing assessment is especially crucial for avoiding exploitation by others. We used a repeated, two-person bargaining game and a cognitive hierarchy model to test how subjects judge the information sent asymmetrically from one player to the other. The weight that they give to this information is the result of two distinct factors: their baseline suspicion given the situation and the suspicion generated by the other person’s behavior. We hypothesized that human brains maintain an ongoing estimate of the credibility of the other player and sought to uncover neural correlates of this process. In the game, sellers were forced to infer the value of an object based on signals sent from a prospective buyer. We found that amygdala activity correlated with baseline suspicion, whereas activations in bilateral parahippocampus correlated with trial-by-trial uncertainty induced by the buyer’s sequence of suggestions. In addition, the less credible buyers that appeared, the more sensitive parahippocampal activation was to trial-by-trial uncertainty. Although both of these neural structures have previously been implicated in trustworthiness judgments, these results suggest that they have distinct and separable roles that correspond to their theorized roles in learning and memory.

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