Coupling social attention to the self forms a network for personal significance

Jie Sui, Pia Rotshtein, Glyn W. Humphreys

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

99 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Prior social psychological studies show that newly assigned personal significance can modulate high-level cognitive processes, e.g., memory and social evaluation, with self- and other-related information processed in dissociated prefrontal structure: ventral vs. dorsal, respectively. Here, we demonstrate the impact of personal significance on perception and show the neural network that supports this effect. We used an associative learning procedure in which we "tag" a neutral shape with a self-relevant label. Participants were instructed to associate three neutral shapes with labels for themselves, their best friend, or an unfamiliar other. Functional magnetic resonance imaging data were acquired while participants judged whether the shape-label pairs were maintained or swapped. Behaviorally, participants rapidly tagged a neutral stimulus with self-relevance, showing a robust advantage for self-tagged stimuli. Self-tagging responses were associated with enhanced activity in brain regions linked to self-representation [the ventral medial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC)] and to sensory-driven regions associated with social attention [the left posterior superior temporal sulcus (LpSTS)]. In contrast, associations formedwith other people recruited a dorsal frontoparietal control network, with the two networks being inversely correlated. Responses in the vmPFC and LpSTS predicted behavioral self-bias effects. Effective connectivity analyses showed that the vmPFC and the LpSTS were functionally coupled, with the strength of coupling associated with behavioral self-biases. The data show that assignment of personal social significance affects perceptual matching by coupling internal self-representations to brain regions modulating attentional responses to external stimuli.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)7607-7612
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Volume110
Issue number19
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 7 May 2013

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General

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