The continuous balancing of the risks and benefits of exploiting known options or exploring new opportunities is essential to human life. We forage for new opportunities when they are deemed to be more attractive than the available option, but this decision to forage also entails costs. People differ in their propensity to exploit or forage, and both the social circumstances and our individual value orientations are likely influences. Here, participants made foraging decisions for themselves and for a charity of their choice in two paradigms: one that features two distinct modes of decision-making (foraging vs classical economic decision-making) and one which is more directly related to the classical animal foraging and ethology literature. Across both paradigms, individuals who possessed a stronger self-focused value orientation obtained more rewards when they were allowed to forage for themselves rather than the charity. Neuroimaging during the tasks revealed that this effect was associated with activity in the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex (dACC) in that more self-focused individuals showed lower activity in dACC for the self-condition relative to the other condition. This evidence reveals a dynamic interplay between foraging outcomes and the higher-order value system of individuals.
Zacharopoulos, G., Shenhav, A., Linden, D. E. J., & Maio, G. (2018). The effect of self-focus on personal and social foraging behaviour. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, 13(9), 967-975. https://doi.org/10.1093/scan/nsy057