Neural coding of human values is underpinned by brain areas representing the core self in the cortical midline region

Leszkowicz Emilia, Gregory Maio, David E. J. Linden, Niklas Ihssen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

The impact of human values on our choices depends on their nature. Self-Transcendence values motivate us to act for the benefit of others and care for the environment. Self-Enhancement values motivate us to act for our benefit. The present study examines differences in the neural processes underlying these two value domains. Extending our previous research, we used fMRI to explore first of all neural correlates of Self-Transcendence vs Self-Enhancement values, with a particular focus on the putative role of the medial prefrontal cortex (MPFC), which has been linked to a self-transcendent mind-set. Additionally, we investigated the neural basis of Openness to Change vs Conservation values. We asked participants to reflect on and rate values as guiding principles in their lives while undergoing fMRI. Mental processing of Self-Transcendence values was associated with higher brain activity in the dorsomedial (BA9, BA8) and ventromedial (BA10) prefrontal cortices, as compared to Self-Enhancement values. The former involved activation and the latter deactivation of those regions. We did not detect differences in brain activation between Openness to Change vs Conservation values. Self-Transcendence values thus shared brain regions with social processes that have previously been linked to a self-transcendent mind-set, and the “core self” representation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)486-499
Number of pages14
JournalSocial Neuroscience
Volume16
Issue number5
Early online date20 Jul 2021
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2021

Keywords

  • Basic human values/Schwartz’s value model
  • fMRI
  • self-enhancement
  • self-transcendence

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Development
  • Behavioral Neuroscience

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