Neural evidence of motivational conflict between social values

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

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Motivational interdependence is an organizing principle in Schwartz’s circumplex model of social values, which has received abundant cross-cultural support. We used fMRI to test whether motivational relations between social values predict different brain responses in a situation of choice between values. We hypothesized that differences in brain responses would become evident when the more important value had to be selected in pairs of congruent (e.g., wealth and success) as opposed to incongruent (e.g., curiosity and stability) values as they are described in Schwartz’s model, because the former serve mutually facilitating motives, whereas the latter serve mutually inhibiting motives. Consistent with the model, choosing between congruent values led to longer response times and more activation in conflict-related brain regions (e.g., the supplementary motor area, dorsolateral prefrontal cortex) than selecting between incongruent values. These results provide novel neural evidence supporting the circumplex model’s predictions about motivational interdependence between social values. In particular, our results show that the neural networks underlying social values are organized in a way that allows activation patterns related to motivational similarity between congruent values to be dissociated from those related to incongruent values.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)494–505
JournalSocial Neuroscience
Issue number5
Early online date19 May 2016
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2017


  • values, brain


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