Sense or sensibility? The neuro-functional basis of the structural matching effect in persuasion

Antonio Aquino, Francesca Romana Alparone, Stefano Pagliaro, Geoffrey Haddock, Gregory R. Maio, Mauro Gianni Perrucci, Sjoerd J.H. Ebisch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Citations (SciVal)
9 Downloads (Pure)


The present study investigates the neural pathways underlying individual susceptibility to affective or cognitive information in persuasive communication, also known as the structural matching effect. Expanding on the presumed involvement of the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vMPFC) in persuasion, we hypothesized that the vMPFC contributes to the evaluation of persuasive information depending on its match with the recipient’s affective or cognitive predominance. During functional magnetic resonance imaging, 30 participants evaluated 10 consumable products presented with both affective and cognitive persuasive messages. All participants were characterized on a continuum regarding their personal orientation in terms of individual differences in need for affect (NFA) and need for cognition (NFC). The results showed that the vMPFC, posterior cingulate cortex, and cerebellum are more strongly activated when the persuasive message content, either affective or cognitive, matched the recipient’s individual affective or cognitive orientation. Interestingly, this effect in the vMPFC was found specifically when participants evaluated the products presented by the persuasive messages, whereas the correlation in the posterior cingulate cortex and cerebellum activity was detected when reading the messages. These results confirm the hypothesis that the vMPFC plays a role in subjectively weighting persuasive message content depending on individual differences in affective and cognitive orientation. Such a structural matching effect might involve the vMPFC particularly during explicit expressions of subjective valuations. These novel findings also further develop the conceptualization of the role of the vMPFC in self-related processing.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)536-550
Number of pages15
JournalCognitive, Affective, & Behavioral Neuroscience
Issue number3
Early online date17 Mar 2020
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2020


  • Need for affect
  • Need for cognition
  • Self-relevance
  • Structural matching effect
  • Ventral medial prefrontal cortex

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


Dive into the research topics of 'Sense or sensibility? The neuro-functional basis of the structural matching effect in persuasion'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this