Article

The Influence of Group Membership and Individual Differences in Psychopathy and Perspective Taking on Neural Responses When Punishing and Rewarding Others

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Abstract

Understanding how neural processes involved in punishing and rewarding others are altered by group membership and personality traits is critical in order to gain a better understanding of how socially important phenomena such as racial and group biases develop. Participants in an fMRI study (n = 48) gave rewards (money) or punishments (electroshocks) to in-group or out-group members. The results show that when participants rewarded others, greater activation was found in regions typically associated with receiving rewards such as the striatum and medial orbitofrontal cortex, bilaterally. Activation in those regions increased when participants rewarded in-group compared to out-group members. Punishment led to increased activation in regions typically associated with Theory of Mind including the medial prefrontal cortex and posterior superior temporal sulcus, as well as regions typically associated with perceiving others in pain such as the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex, anterior insula and lateral orbitofrontal cortex. Interestingly, in contrast to the findings regarding reward, activity in these regions was not moderated by whether the target of the punishment was an in- or out-group member. Additional regression analysis revealed that participants who have low perspective taking skills and higher levels of psychopathy showed less activation in the brain regions identified when punishing others, especially when they were out-group members. In sum, when an individual is personally responsible for delivering rewards and punishments to others, in-group bias is stronger for reward allocation than punishments, marking the first neuroscientific evidence of this dissociation. Hum Brain Mapp, 2014. © 2014 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

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... Meta-analysis on the OFC have routinely shown that the lateral region of the OFC is related to the evaluation of punishers and may lead to a change in behaviour, whereas the medial region is typically related to monitoring the reward value of reinforcers (Kringelbach and Rolls, 2004;Berridge and Kringelbach, 2013). Severe damage to the OFC can lead to an increase in immoral behaviour (Eslinger and Damasio, 1985;Saver and Damasio, 1991;Sobhani and Bechara, 2011), and individuals scoring high on psychopathy often have anatomical and functional dysfunctions in this area (Best et al., 2002;Antonucci et al., 2006;Anderson and Kiehl, 2012;Decety et al., 2013;Molenberghs et al., 2014b). ...
... students from the same university) and outgroup (i.e. students from a neighbouring university) members (Molenberghs et al., 2014b). Participants gave rewards (i.e. ...
... These areas became more active when people were rewarding ingroup vs outgroup members. In contrast, punishing others led to increased activation in regions typically associated with Theory of Mind including the mPFC and posterior superior temporal sulcus, as well as regions typically associated with moral sensitivity such as the lateral OFC (Molenberghs et al., 2014b). Importantly, these areas were equally active when harming ingroup vs outgroup members. ...
Article
Despite moral prohibitions on hurting other humans, some social contexts allow for harmful actions such as the killing of others. One example is warfare, where killing enemy soldiers is seen as morally justified. Yet, the neural underpinnings distinguishing between justified and unjustified killing are largely unknown. To improve understanding of the neural processes involved in justified and unjustified killing, participants had to imagine being the perpetrator whilst watching "first-person perspective" animated videos where they shot enemy soldiers ('justified violence') and innocent civilians ('unjustified violence'). When participants imagined themselves shooting civilians compared to soldiers, greater activation was found in the lateral orbitofrontal cortex (OFC). Regression analysis revealed that the more guilt participants felt about shooting civilians, the greater the response in the lateral OFC. Effective connectivity analyses further revealed an increased coupling between lateral OFC and the tempoparietal junction (TPJ) when shooting civilians. The results show that the neural mechanisms typically implicated with harming others, such as the OFC, become less active when the violence against a particular group is seen as justified. This study therefore provides unique insight into how normal individuals can become aggressors in specific situations. © The Author (2015). Published by Oxford University Press. For Permissions, please email: journals.permissions@oup.com.
... An fMRI experiment investigated participants' neural responses as they rewarded or punished a student from their university or a student from a different university (Molenberghs et al., 2014). Participants were led to believe that they observed the responses of the two students to challenging trivia questions. ...
... The observed activity was not moderated by the group membership of the recipient of the shocks (Molenberghs et al., 2014). Rather, the activity was moderated by certain personality variables. ...
... These processes all facilitate intergroup violence, while in the absence of intergroup competition or conflict, punishing an outgroup member results in similar neural responses to punishing an ingroup member (Molenberghs et al., 2014). Causing unjust versus just harm leads to neural activity indicative of moral violations and guilt (Domínguez et al., 2018). ...
Chapter
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Intergroup violence remains ever-present in societies across the globe, leading to devastating consequences. In order to develop informed interventions aiming to curb intergroup violence, it is vital that we understand the processes driving it. Data collected using self-report measures and behavioural research methods alone may be confounded when investigating sensitive research questions related to intergroup violence. Participants may be motivated to (intentionally or not) withhold their honest responses or to alter their behaviour due to social desirability effects. Functional neuroimaging has the capacity to capture participants’ automatic neural responses, and is thus an especially valuable research tool in this context. This chapter aims to review neuroimaging studies investigating the neural mechanisms underlying intergroup conflict in light of classic social psychological theories about intergroup and intrapersonal processes leading to collective violence. These include the perception of intergroup competition and threat, schadenfreude, dehumanisation and moral disengagement. It then summarises key neuroimaging findings on the responses to intergroup violence, from the perspectives of both the perpetrator and the victim. Finally, this chapter points towards future research directions, suggesting ways in which the reviewed literature may inform the reduction and prevention of intergroup violence.
... To investigate this, Molenberghs et al. (2014) asked university students to reward students from their own university or another university if they correctly responded to trivia questions, and punish them for any incorrect responses while undergoing fMRI. Allocating monetary reward to others was related to activity in the dorsal putamen, a region associated with reward processing (Haruno & Kawato, 2006), and the medial orbitofrontal cortex, a region associated with evaluation and decision-making (Berridge & Kringelbach, 2013). ...
... There was no difference between these neural responses when harming an ingroup vs. outgroup member (Molenberghs et al., 2014). These findings are in line with the notion that ingroup bias does not in itself lead to increased hostility toward an outgroup. ...
... The activity in the lOFC was positively related to the amount of guilt participants expressed about shooting civilians vs. soldiers. This finding supports previous research indicating the role of the lOFC in moral cognition (e.g., Eres et al., 2018;Molenberghs et al., 2014), suggesting that justified and unjustified killing lead to different neural responses. The authors interpreted the absence of lOFC activity in response to killing soldiers as a lack of moral sensitivity because the violence was justified. ...
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The COVID-19 pandemic led to a global increase in hate crimes and xenophobia. In these uncertain times, real or imaginary threats can easily lead to intergroup conflict. Here, we integrate social neuroscience findings with classic social psychology theories into a framework to better understand how intergroup threat can lead to violence. The role of moral disengagement, dehumanization, and intergroup schadenfreude in this process are discussed, together with their underlying neural mechanisms. We outline how this framework can inform social scientists and policy makers to help reduce the escalation of intergroup conflict and promote intergroup cooperation. The critical role of the media and public figures in these unprecedented times is highlighted as an important factor to achieve these goals.
... Adolescents with psychopathic traits or with conduct problems show reduced activity to stimuli depicting pain in this neural network including the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), anterior insula (aINS), and amygdala (Lockwood et al. 2013;Marsh et al. 2013;but see Decety et al. 2009). However, in forensic psychopaths, relative to incarcerated controls, no reduction in neural response was detected in the ACC and aINS (i.e., regions involved in affective processing of pain) when they viewed pictures of physical pain, facial expressions of pain, or scenarios depicting interpersonal harm from a first-person perspective (Decety et al. 2013ab;Decety et al. 2014;Decety et al. 2015). Yet, the participants from the aforementioned studies, who scored high on the psychopathy check list revised (PCL-R Ͼ30) exhibited significantly less activation in the ventromedial prefrontal cortex and lateral orbitofrontal cortex, regions critical to experiencing empathic concern and a motivation to care for others ' well-being (Decety and Cowell 2014ab;Parsons et al. 2013;Sobhani and Bechara 2011). ...
... Another fMRI study reported that while individuals with psychopathy demonstrated a typical response in pain-affective brain regions when taking an imagine-self perspective, they failed to recruit this neural circuit during an imagine-other perspective, and that diminished response may contribute to their lack of empathic concern (Decety et al. 2013a). Thus clinical neuroscience research with adult incarcerated psychopaths seems to suggest that when they pay attention to stimuli depicting harm, they activate the same regions that control participants would, with the notable exception of the ventromedial prefrontal cortex, a pivotal hub for empathic concern and moral decision-making (Decety and Cowell 2014ab; Moll and de Oliveira-Souza 2007;Molenberghs et al. 2014;Parsons et al. 2013; Taber Cognitive empathy, often described as perspective taking, has also been well studied in both typical and atypical populations with fMRI and electrophysiology. As documented by several neuroimaging studies, when participants are asked to adopt the perspective of another person and imagine what she feels, increased hemodynamic signal is detected in the medial and ventromedial prefrontal cortex in conjunction with the posterior superior temporal sulcus. ...
... Trait psychopathy was inversely related to this difference in LPP during the empathic concern condition. Modulations in the LPP are argued to index controlled reappraisal and more elaborative processing of emotional stimuli (Cheng et al. 2014;Hacjak et al. 2010;Ibanez et al. 2012;and Decety 2014;Zhang and Zhou 2014), necessities for eliciting a motivation to care when attending to people in distress. Results from the present experiment suggest that dimensional psychopathy is unrelated to differences in automatic (early ERP) and rudimentary reactions to the pain of others. ...
Article
Empathic impairment is one of the hallmarks of psychopathy, a personality dimension associated with poverty in affective reactions, lack of attachment to others, and a callous disregard for the feelings, rights, and welfare of others. Neuroscience research on the relation between empathy and psychopathy has predominately focused on the affective sharing and cognitive components of empathy in forensic populations, and much less on empathic concern. The current study used high-density electroencephalography in a community sample to examine the spatiotemporal neurodynamic responses when viewing people in physical distress under two subjective contexts: one evoking affective sharing, the other, empathic concern. Results indicate that early automatic (175-275 ms) and later controlled responses (LPP 400-1000 ms) were differentially modulated by engagement in affective sharing or empathic concern. Importantly, the late ERP component was significantly impacted by dispositional empathy and psychopathy, but the early component was not. Individual differences in dispositional empathic concern directly predicted gamma coherence (25-40 Hz), whereas psychopathy was inversely modulatory. Interestingly, significant suppression in the mu/alpha band (8-13 Hz) when perceiving others in distress was positively associated with higher trait psychopathy, which argues against the assumption that sensorimotor resonance underpins empathy. Greater scores on trait psychopathy were inversely related to subjective ratings of both empathic concern and affective sharing. Overall, the study demonstrates that neural markers of affective sharing and empathic concern to the same cues of another's distress can be distinguished at an electrophysiological level, and that psychopathy alters later time-locked differentiations and spectral coherence associated with empathic concern. Copyright © 2015, Journal of Neurophysiology.
... Meta-analyses on the OFC have shown that the medial portions of the OFC are more associated with monitoring the reward value of different reinforcers, while the lateral portion of the OFC is associated with evaluating punishers that, ultimately, may change ongoing behavior (Berridge and Kringelbach, 2013;Kringelbach & Rolls, 2004). Supporting this, we recently showed that the medial OFC was more active when people reward others while the lateral OFC was more active when participants were harming another person (Molenberghs et al., 2014a). Subsequent fMRI experiments have shown that the increase in lateral OFC activation is directly related to how guilty people feel when harming others (Molenberghs et al., 2015), and how much moral sensitivity they experience when observing a person being harmed (Molenberghs, Gapp, Wang, Louis, & Decety, 2014b). ...
... Thinking about stealing tangible items (compared with obtaining them legally) led to an increase in left lateral OFC activation while this was not the case for intangible items. The OFC has been previously segregated into reward and punishment processing where the medial components are responsible for rewards and the lateral components responsible for punishers (Kringelbach & Rolls, 2004;Molenberghs et al., 2014a). Additionally, the lateral OFC appears to be responsible for processing displeasurable information (Berridge & Kringelbach, 2013) and is associated with increased moral sensitivity (Molenberghs et al., 2014b). ...
... However, previous neuroimaging studies have shown that imagining certain actions and performing those actions rely partially on similar brain regions (Hanakawa et al., 2003;Lotze et al., 1999;Porro, Cettolo, Francescato, & Baraldi, 2000;Roth et al., 1996). We have also shown in the past (Molenberghs et al., 2015) that imagining harming others and feeling guilty about those actions leads to similar activation in lateral OFC as when people harm others directly (Molenberghs et al., 2014a). We have also shown previously that increased feelings of guilt (Molenberghs et al., 2015) are associated with increased lateral OFC activity. ...
Article
It is not uncommon for people to openly admit to pirating information from the internet despite the known legal consequences. Those same people are often less inclined to steal the same physical item from a shop. This raises the question, why do people have fewer reservations with stealing intangible items compared to tangible? Using questionnaires and fMRI we provide evidence across three studies as to the differences between tangible and intangible theft. In a questionnaire (Study 1), participants revealed that across different conditions they were more willing to steal intangible compared to tangible goods. Study 2a used fMRI to reveal that a network involved in imagining objects was more active when participants were representing intangible versus tangible objects, suggesting people have greater difficulty representing intangible items. Study 2b used fMRI to show that when stealing tangible objects versus intangible, participants had increased activation in left lateral orbitofrontal cortex, an area typically activated in response to morally laden situations. The findings from the current investigation provide novel insights into the higher prevalence of intangible theft and suggest that differential neural representation of tangible and intangible items may, in part, explain why people are more willing to steal intangible items.
... In particular, OFC activity plays a central role in the display of reactive aggression, which occurs in response to frustration or threat (for a review, see Blair, 2004). Moreover, intentionally or unintentionally harming othersor perceiving others being harmed or in physical painhas consistently been associated with activity in the OFC (among other regions such as the medial prefrontal cortex, insula and anterior cingulate cortex; Decety et al., 2012;Molenberghs et al., 2014;Molenberghs, Gapp, Wang, Louis, & Decety, 2016;Singer et al., 2004;Molenberghs et al., 2015;Xu, Zuo, Wang, & Han, 2009). Critically, activity in these regions can be modulated by the group membership of the victim (for reviews see: Amodio, 2014;Cikara & Van Bavel, 2014;Eres & Molenberghs, 2013;Han, 2015;Molenberghs, 2013). ...
... For instance, a study by Beer et al. (2008) revealed that prejudiced attitudes involving negativity towards outgroup members (e.g., African Americans) were associated with increased activation in the lOFC, while positive associations with (Caucasian) ingroup members were related to activation in the mOFC. Similarly, Molenberghs et al. (2014) asked participants to give punishments (electroshocks) or rewards (money) to either ingroup (i.e., students from the same university) or outgroup (i.e., students from a neighbouring university) members based on their responses on a trivia task. Results revealed that the mOFC was more active when participants rewarded others, while the lOFC was more active when participants punished others. ...
... Results revealed increased lOFC activity as well as higher levels of selfreported moral sensitivity, when viewing outgroup attacks on ingroup members . To summarize, it seems that the distress experienced in violent situations, for example when harming innocent people (Molenberghs et al., 2014(Molenberghs et al., , 2015, or when watching ingroup members being attacked by an outgroup member , is accompanied by increased activation in the lOFC. ...
Article
The role of the orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) in moral decision-making is well established. However, OFC activity is highly context dependent. It is affected by the extent to which choices are morally justified and whom they concern. In the current study, we specifically focus on contextual factors and investigate the differential role of the OFC during justified and unjustified violence towards ingroup versus outgroup members. Muslims were chosen as the outgroup, as they are currently stereotypically seen as an outgroup and a potential threat by some Non-Muslims. Importantly, we also introduce a context where participants are the actual agents responsible for doing harm. During fMRI scanning, Non-Muslim participants (N=48) had to decide to either shoot a Non-Muslim (i.e., ingroup member) or Muslim (outgroup member) depending on whether they believed the target was holding a gun or an object. Neuroimaging results showed increased activation in the lateral OFC (lOFC) in the three contrasts that were distressing: 1) during unjustifiable killing; 2) when being killed; and 3) when confronted by an outgroup member with a gun. Together, these results provide important insights into the neurocognitive mechanisms involved in intergroup violence and highlight the critical role of the lOFC in context dependent social decision-making.
... There is also evidence that the dmPFC is preferentially recruited by those who score higher on other-related moral emotion measures, when performing actions deemed as bad (Yoder & Decety, 2014). The dlPFC plays a role in morality by overriding moral decisions through reasoning (see review by Mendez, 2009), whereas the OFC has been associated with guilt (Molenberghs et al., 2014a(Molenberghs et al., , 2015, moral sensitivity (Molenberghs, Gapp, Wang, Louis, & Decety, 2014b) and processing emotionally salient information related to moral value (Moll et al., 2002a). ...
... Role encompasses both agency and victim, and can also be dichotomised into two levels: the person eliciting the harm or experiencing the harm could be the participant themselves (self), or the agent and potential victim is another person (other). For example, when reading statements where bodily harm is described, "self" conditions would emphasise the participant eliciting or experiencing the harm (e.g., Molenberghs et al., 2014a), whereas "other" conditions would emphasise a third party experiencing or eliciting the harm (e.g., Young & Saxe, 2009). ...
... Utilitarian responses were compared against emotional responses. Molenberghs et al. (2014a) 48 Intentional Harm > Neutral Participants were required to shock or reward ingroup and outgroup members based on their performance on a questionnaire-like task. Cognitive, Explicit, Proximal, Other Schleim, Spranger, Erk, and ...
Article
Morality is an important social construct necessary for understanding what is right and wrong. Neuroimaging studies investigating morality have used a wide variety of paradigms and implicated many different brain areas. Yet, it remains unclear whether differences amongst morality tasks are the cause for such heterogeneous findings. Therefore, in the present study, a series of activation likelihood estimation (ALE) meta-analyses were conducted on 123 datasets (inclusive of 1963 participants) to address this question. The ALE meta-analyses revealed a series of common brain areas associated with all moral tasks, including medial prefrontal cortex, lateral orbitofrontal cortex, amygdala, temporoparietal junction, and precuneus. However, individual and contrast analyses also revealed unique networks associated with each moral modality, suggesting that different moral tasks recruit specialised brain regions.
... Intergroup bias in the reward system is not only observed when watching others in pain but also when rewarding others. In an fMRI study (Molenberghs et al., 2014), university students had to give monetary rewards to ingroup (students from the same university) or outgroup (students from another university) members if they answered a question correctly during a trivia task. Giving rewards to both ingroup and outgroup members was associated with increased activation in brain areas involved in the reward system, such as the striatum and medial orbitofrontal cortex (mOFC), but critically, giving rewards to ingroup (vs. ...
... However, preferring to reward ingroup vs. outgroup members seems to happen already in minimal groups (Tajfel et al., 1971). These observations are in line with the view that ingroup bias is more about favoring the ingroup rather than harming the outgroup (Brewer, 1999;Molenberghs et al., 2014). Indeed, in most everyday situations people value their own team more and prefer that their team wins, but do not necessarily want the other team to get hurt. ...
Article
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Intergroup biases can manifest themselves between a wide variety of different groups such as people from different races, nations, ethnicities, political or religious beliefs, opposing sport teams or even arbitrary groups. In this review we provide a neuroscientific overview of functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) studies that have revealed how group dynamics impact on various cognitive and emotional systems at different levels of information processing. We first describe how people can perceive the faces, words and actions of ingroup and outgroup members in a biased way. Second, we focus on how activity in brain areas involved in empathizing with the pain of others, such as the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex (dACC) and anterior insula (AI), are influenced by group membership. Third, we describe how group membership influences activity in brain areas involved in mentalizing such as the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) and temporoparietal junction (TPJ). Fourth, we discuss the involvement of the lateral orbitofrontal cortex (lOFC) in increased moral sensitivity for outgroup threats. Finally, we discuss how brain areas involved in the reward system such as the striatum and medial orbitofrontal cortex (mOFC), are more active when experiencing schadenfreude for outgroup harm and when rewarding ingroup (versus outgroup) members. The value of these neuroscientific insights to better understand ingroup bias are discussed, as well as limitations and future research directions.
... These studies included the observation of social tar- gets experiencing a variety of reward types, including pleasant touch, tastes, and smells; monetary payoffs; positive social feedback (e.g., praise); and positive emotional events (e.g., getting engaged). Social distance between the participant and target varied across studies, ranging from strangers ( Morelli et al., 2014) to friends and ingroup members (e.g., Braams et al. (2013); Molenberghs et al. (2014); Varnum et al. (2014)) to family (e.g., Telzer et al. (2013); Telzer et al. (2010)). ...
... Psychopaths thus appear contemptuous in all of their interactions: arrogant, without guilt, empathy, shame, or social sadness; exploitative, reactively intolerant, and externalizingall adaptive dispositions vis-à-vis someone held in contempt. Supporting this, clinical psychopaths are capable of empathy, but are usually unmotivated to empathize (Meffert et al. 2013), and subclinical psychopathic traits predict the conditioning of concern and relational investment on another's manifest relational value (Arbuckle & Cunningham 2012;Gervais et al. 2013;Molenberghs et al. 2014). ...
Article
The hypothesis of a phylogenetic connection between protorespect in primate dominance hierarchies and respect in human prestige hierarchies lies in the principle that dominance is a domain of competence like others and, hence, that high-ranking primates have protoprestige . The idea that dominant primates manifest protocontempt to subordinates suggests that “looking down on” followers is intrinsic to leadership in humans, but that the expression of contempt varies critically in relation to the socioecological context.
... Psychopaths thus appear contemptuous in all of their interactions: arrogant, without guilt, empathy, shame, or social sadness; exploitative, reactively intolerant, and externalizingall adaptive dispositions vis-à-vis someone held in contempt. Supporting this, clinical psychopaths are capable of empathy, but are usually unmotivated to empathize (Meffert et al. 2013), and subclinical psychopathic traits predict the conditioning of concern and relational investment on another's manifest relational value (Arbuckle & Cunningham 2012;Gervais et al. 2013;Molenberghs et al. 2014). ...
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The phylogenetically ancient neuropeptide oxytocin has been linked to a plethora of social behaviors. Here, we argue that the action of oxytocin is not restricted to the downstream level of emotional responses, but substantially alters higher representations of attitudes and values by exerting a distant modulatory influence on cortical areas and their reciprocal interplay with subcortical regions and hormonal systems.
... Psychopaths thus appear contemptuous in all of their interactions: arrogant, without guilt, empathy, shame, or social sadness; exploitative, reactively intolerant, and externalizingall adaptive dispositions vis-à-vis someone held in contempt. Supporting this, clinical psychopaths are capable of empathy, but are usually unmotivated to empathize (Meffert et al. 2013), and subclinical psychopathic traits predict the conditioning of concern and relational investment on another's manifest relational value (Arbuckle & Cunningham 2012;Gervais et al. 2013;Molenberghs et al. 2014). ...
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The target article argues that contempt is a sentiment, and that sentiments are the deep structure of social affect. The 26 commentaries meet these claims with a range of exciting extensions and applications, as well as critiques. Most significantly, we reply that construction and emergence are necessary for, not incompatible with, evolved design, while parsimony requires explanatory adequacy and predictive accuracy, not mere simplicity.
... Psychopaths thus appear contemptuous in all of their interactions: arrogant, without guilt, empathy, shame, or social sadness; exploitative, reactively intolerant, and externalizingall adaptive dispositions vis-à-vis someone held in contempt. Supporting this, clinical psychopaths are capable of empathy, but are usually unmotivated to empathize (Meffert et al. 2013), and subclinical psychopathic traits predict the conditioning of concern and relational investment on another's manifest relational value (Arbuckle & Cunningham 2012;Gervais et al. 2013;Molenberghs et al. 2014). ...
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Prejudice, like contempt, is a general evaluation rather than a specific emotion. I explore the idea that emotions and attitudes are conceptually distinct by applying Gervais & Fessler's model to the intergroup context. I argue that prejudice is an affective representation of a social group's relational value (friend or foe) and dispute the idea that there are many distinct prejudices.
... Psychopaths thus appear contemptuous in all of their interactions: arrogant, without guilt, empathy, shame, or social sadness; exploitative, reactively intolerant, and externalizingall adaptive dispositions vis-à-vis someone held in contempt. Supporting this, clinical psychopaths are capable of empathy, but are usually unmotivated to empathize (Meffert et al. 2013), and subclinical psychopathic traits predict the conditioning of concern and relational investment on another's manifest relational value (Arbuckle & Cunningham 2012;Gervais et al. 2013;Molenberghs et al. 2014). ...
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In the Attitude–Scenario–Emotion (ASE) model, social relationships are subpersonally realized by sentiments: a network of emotions/attitudes representing relational values. We discuss how relational values differ from moral values and raise the issue of their ontogeny from genetic and cultural factors. Because relational values develop early in life, they cannot rely solely on cognition as suggested by the notion of attitude.
... Psychopaths thus appear contemptuous in all of their interactions: arrogant, without guilt, empathy, shame, or social sadness; exploitative, reactively intolerant, and externalizingall adaptive dispositions vis-à-vis someone held in contempt. Supporting this, clinical psychopaths are capable of empathy, but are usually unmotivated to empathize (Meffert et al. 2013), and subclinical psychopathic traits predict the conditioning of concern and relational investment on another's manifest relational value (Arbuckle & Cunningham 2012;Gervais et al. 2013;Molenberghs et al. 2014). ...
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"Contempt" is proposed to be a unique aspect of human nature yet a non-natural kind. Its psychological construct is framed as a sentiment emerging from a stratification of diverse basic emotions and dispositional attitudes. Accordingly, "contempt" might transcend traditional conceptual levels in social psychology, including experience and recognition of emotion, dyadic and group dynamics, context-conditioned attitudes, time-enduring personality structure, and morality. This strikes us as a modern psychological account of a high-level social-affective cognitive facet that joins forces with recent developments in the social neuroscience by drawing psychological conclusion from brain biology.
... Psychopaths thus appear contemptuous in all of their interactions: arrogant, without guilt, empathy, shame, or social sadness; exploitative, reactively intolerant, and externalizingall adaptive dispositions vis-à-vis someone held in contempt. Supporting this, clinical psychopaths are capable of empathy, but are usually unmotivated to empathize (Meffert et al. 2013), and subclinical psychopathic traits predict the conditioning of concern and relational investment on another's manifest relational value (Arbuckle & Cunningham 2012;Gervais et al. 2013;Molenberghs et al. 2014). ...
Article
Gervais and Fessler argue the perceived legitimacy of contempt has declined over time in the US, citing evidence of a decrease in the frequency of its use in the American English corpus. We argue that this decline in contempt, as reflected in cultural products, is linked to shifts in key socio-ecological features previously associated with other forms of cultural change.
... Relatedly, the stimulus-locked N2 component is sensitive to social categorization induced by in-group vs out-group faces (Ito and Urland, 2003;Bartholow, 2007, 2010). Social context characteristics are also reflected in activation patterns in aMCC observed in functional imaging studies addressing the impact of social context on error processing Newman-Norlund et al., 2009;Molenberghs et al., 2014). ...
Article
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The on-going (self-)monitoring of our behavior is inextricably intertwined with the surrounding social context. In this study, we investigated whether a minimal group paradigm assigning individuals to arbitrary group categories is powerful enough to induce changes in behavioral, psychophysiological and event-related potential correlates of performance monitoring. Following arbitrary group assignment based on ostensible task performance and a group identification task, 22 volunteers performed a flanker-task during both in-group and out-group contexts, while electroencephalography was performed. More errors were committed in the out-group compared to the in-group context. Error-Related Negativity (ERN) amplitudes were larger for in-group compared to out-group errors. However, subsequent processing reflected in late Pe amplitudes and stimulus-driven conflict reflected in N2 amplitudes were not affected by the group context. Heart rate deceleration (during both correct and incorrect trials) tended to be more pronounced during the out-group compared to the in-group context. This surprising observation was corroborated by subjective ratings of performance satisfaction, in which participants reported higher satisfaction with their out-group performance. The current study identified specific stimulus evaluation processes to be affected by a minimal group manipulation and demonstrated thereby transient top-down effects of a social context manipulation on performance monitoring.
... Psychopaths thus appear contemptuous in all of their interactions: arrogant, without guilt, empathy, shame, or social sadness; exploitative, reactively intolerant, and externalizingall adaptive dispositions vis-à-vis someone held in contempt. Supporting this, clinical psychopaths are capable of empathy, but are usually unmotivated to empathize (Meffert et al. 2013), and subclinical psychopathic traits predict the conditioning of concern and relational investment on another's manifest relational value (Arbuckle & Cunningham 2012;Gervais et al. 2013;Molenberghs et al. 2014). ...
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Insensitive parental thoughts and affect, similar to contempt, may be mapped onto a network of basic emotions moderated by attitudinal representations of social-relational value. Brain mechanisms that reflect emotional valence of baby signals among parents vary according to individual differences and show plasticity over time. Furthermore, mental health problems and treatments for parents may affect these brain systems toward or away from contempt, respectively.
... It is worth noting that there has been no work on how testosterone administration modulates with the neural mechanisms involved in moral judgments. Neuroscience investigations, including those using fMRI and lesion studies, have begun to characterize the neural mechanisms underpinning moral cognition [de OliveiraSouza et al., 2015; Molenberghs et al., 2014; Sobhani and Bechara, 2011; Taber-Thomas et al., 2014]. Scholars generally agree that moral judgments arise from the integration of cognitive , affective, and motivational systems, which involve the posterior superior temporal sulcus/temporoparietal junction (pSTS/TPJ), amygdala, anterior insular cortex (AIC), ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC), dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (dlPFC), dorsomedial prefrontal cortex (dmPFC), and medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) [Buckholtz and Marois, 2012; Decety and Cowell, 2014; Greene et al., 2004; Moll et al., 2005; Young et al., 2010a; Young and Koenigs, 2007]. ...
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Morality is defined as prescriptive norms regarding how people should treat one another, and includes concepts of fairness, justice, and rights. One recent study with moral dilemmas suggested that testosterone administration increases utilitarian judgments, which depends on second-to-fourth (2D: 4D) digit ratio, as a proxy of prenatal priming. However, the neural mechanism by which acute testosterone modulates moral reasoning remains to be determined. Using a placebo-controlled within-subject design, the current study examined the neuromodulatory effect of testosterone in young females by combining moral dilemmas, 2D: 4D, functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), and subjective ratings of morally laden scenarios. Results showed that testosterone administration elicited more utilitarian responses to evitable dilemmas. The high 2D: 4D group scored more punishments for moral evaluation, whereas the low 2D: 4D group did the opposite. The activity in the amygdala, anterior insular cortex, and dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (dlPFC) was increased when participants evaluated morally unorthodox actions (intentional harm). The activity in the posterior superior temporal sulcus/temporoparietal junction (pSTS/TPJ) to accidental harm was decreased, specific to the high 2D: 4D group. The functional connectivity between the amygdala and dlPFC was reduced. The activity in the pSTS/TPJ to perceived agency predicted utilitarian responses to evitable dilemmas. The findings demonstrate the acute effect of testosterone on neural responses associated with moral judgment, and provide evidence to support that prenatal sex-hormones priming could be important for early neurodevelopment, which plays a crucial role in the neural and behavioral manifestations of testosterone on adult moral reasoning. Hum Brain Mapp, 2016. © 2016 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
... role of the ventral mPFC in the mentalising process is believed to be associated with accessing personal knowledge and simulating what one would do in a similar situation as the observed person. Finally, the medial parts of the OFC have been linked with associating an outcome with reward, whereas the more lateral parts of the OFC are associated with evaluating punishers, which may lead to a change in ongoing behavior (Kringelbach and Rolls, 2004;Berridge and Kringelbach 2013;Molenberghs et al., 2014). The role of the OFC in the mentalising process might therefore involve linking an emotional valence to a particular person, their actions or their thoughts. ...
Article
Theory of mind (ToM) is an important skill that refers broadly to the capacity to understand the mental states of others. A large number of neuroimaging studies have focused on identifying the functional brain regions involved in ToM, but many important questions remain with respect to the neural networks implicated in specific types of ToM task. In the present study, we conducted a series of activation likelihood estimation (ALE) meta-analyses on 144 datasets (involving 3150 participants) to address these questions. The ALE results revealed common regions shared across all ToM tasks and broader task parameters, but also some important dissociations. In terms of commonalities, consistent activation was identified in the medial prefrontal cortex and bilateral temporoparietal junction. On the other hand, ALE contrast analyses on our dataset, as well as meta-analytic connectivity modelling (MACM) analyses on the BrainMap database, indicated that different types of ToM tasks reliably elicit activity in unique brain areas. Our findings provide the most accurate picture to date of the neural networks that underpin ToM function.
... Psychopaths thus appear contemptuous in all of their interactions: arrogant, without guilt, empathy, shame, or social sadness; exploitative, reactively intolerant, and externalizingall adaptive dispositions vis-à-vis someone held in contempt. Supporting this, clinical psychopaths are capable of empathy, but are usually unmotivated to empathize (Meffert et al. 2013), and subclinical psychopathic traits predict the conditioning of concern and relational investment on another's manifest relational value (Arbuckle & Cunningham 2012;Gervais et al. 2013;Molenberghs et al. 2014). ...
Article
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Contempt is typically studied as a uniquely human moral emotion. However, this approach has yielded inconclusive results. We argue this is because the folk affect concept “contempt” has been inaccurately mapped onto basic affect systems. “Contempt” has features that are inconsistent with a basic emotion, especially its protracted duration and frequently cold phenomenology. Yet other features are inconsistent with a basic attitude. Nonetheless, the features of “contempt” functionally cohere. To account for this we revive and reconfigure the sentiment construct using the notion of evolved functional specialization. We develop the Attitude-Scenario-Emotion (ASE) model of sentiments, in which enduring attitudes represent others' social-relational value and moderate discrete emotions across scenarios. Sentiments are functional networks of attitudes and emotions. Distinct sentiments, including love , respect , like , hate , and fear , track distinct relational affordances, and each is emotionally pluripotent, thereby serving both bookkeeping and commitment functions within relationships. The sentiment contempt is an absence of respect ; from cues to another's low efficacy, it represents them as worthless and small, muting compassion , guilt , and shame and potentiating anger , disgust , and mirth . This sentiment is ancient yet implicated in the ratcheting evolution of human ultrasocialty. The manifolds of the contempt network, differentially engaged across individuals and populations, explain the features of “contempt”, its translatability, and its variable experience – as “hot” or “cold”, occurrent or enduring, and anger-like or disgust-like. This rapprochement between psychological anthropology and evolutionary psychology contributes both methodological and empirical insights, with broad implications for understanding the functional and cultural organization of social affect.
... These temporal regions work in concert with other frontal and subcortical regions to process information involved in complex social cognition and emotion. Functional abnormalities in these temporal regions have been found in individuals with heightened psychopathic tendencies during emotional face processing [59,60], semantic processing [61], selective attention [62], and theory of mind [63][64][65]. Superior temporal cortex, in particularly, is one of the regions most robustly linked to psychopathy. One recently MRI study using pattern classification identified bilateral superior temporal gyri as regions containing the most relevant information for classifying psychopathic individuals [66]. ...
Article
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Psychopathy is a clinical condition characterized by a failure in normal social interaction and morality. Recent studies have begun to reveal brain structural abnormalities associated with psychopathic tendencies in children. However, little is known about whether variations in brain morphology are linked to the developmental trajectory of psychopathic traits over time. In this study, structural magnetic resonance imaging (sMRI) data from 108 14-year-old adolescents with no history of substance abuse (54 males and 54 females) were examined to detect cortical thickness variations associated with psychopathic traits and individual rates of change in psychopathic traits from ages 9 to 18. We found cortical thickness abnormalities to correlate with psychopathic traits both cross-sectionally and longitudinally. Specifically, at age 14, higher psychopathic scores were correlated with thinner cortex in the middle frontal gyrus, particularly in females, and thicker cortex in the superior temporal gyrus, middle temporal gyrus, and parahippocampal gyrus, particularly in males. Longitudinally, individual rates of change in psychopathic tendency over time were correlated with thicker cortex in the superior temporal gyrus, middle temporal gyrus, inferior temporal gyrus, parahippocampal gyrus, and posterior cingulate gyrus, particularly in males. Findings suggest that abnormal cortical thickness may reflect a delay in brain maturation, resulting in disturbances in frontal and temporal functioning such as impulsivity, sensation-seeking, and emotional dysregulation in adolescents. Thus, findings provide initial evidence supporting that abnormal cortical thickness may serve as a biomarker for the development of psychopathic propensity in adolescents.
... ll toss exclusion game Meyer et al . , 2013 Social rejection Friend > stranger ACC and AI Ball toss exclusion game Mobbs et al . , 2009 Reward Self - similar > dissimilar other VS and vmPFC Card guessing game Braams et al . , 2014a Reward Self and friend > antagonist VS Gambling task Braams et al . , 2014b Reward Friend > stranger VS Gambling task Molenberghs et al . , 2014 Reward Game ingroup > outgroup VS and vmPFC Giving money to others Varnum et al . , 2014 Reward Self > friend VS Card guessing game AI , anterior insula ; ACC , anterior cingulate cortex ; vmPFC , ventromedial prefrontal cortex ; VS , ventral striatum . ...
Article
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One route to understanding the thoughts and feelings of others is by mentally putting one's self in their shoes and seeing the world from their perspective, i.e., by simulation. Simulation is potentially used not only for inferring how others feel, but also for predicting how we ourselves will feel in the future. For instance, one might judge the worth of a future reward by simulating how much it will eventually be enjoyed. In intertemporal choices between smaller immediate and larger delayed rewards, it is observed that as the length of delay increases, delayed rewards lose subjective value; a phenomenon known as temporal discounting. In this article, we develop a theoretical framework for the proposition that simulation mechanisms involved in empathizing with others also underlie intertemporal choices. This framework yields a testable psychological account of temporal discounting based on simulation. Such an account, if experimentally validated, could have important implications for how simulation mechanisms are investigated, and makes predictions about special populations characterized by putative deficits in simulating others.
... With regard to empathic processing, evidence suggests that high levels of psychopathic traits in the general population are associated with reduced emotional reactivity to aversive stimuli (e.g., Benning, Patrick, & Iacono, 2005;Justus & Finn, 2007), as well as with weaker self-reported affective responses to others' emotional faces (Ali, Amorim, & Chamorro-Premuzic, 2009;Seara-Cardoso, Dolberg, Neumann, Roiser, & Viding, 2013;Seara-Cardoso, Neumann, Roiser, McCrory, & Viding, 2012). At the neural level, evidence suggests that in the general population psychopathic traits are associated with atypical responses in brain regions including IFG, ventromedial prefrontal cortex and amygdala when processing emotional facial expressions (Carré, Hyde, Neumann, Viding, & Hariri, 2013;Gordon, Baird, & End, 2004;Hyde, Byrd, Votruba-Drzal, Hariri, & Manuck, 2014), and when punishing others with electric shocks (Molenberghs et al., 2014). And when rating one's own affective response to others' emotional faces (Seara-Cardoso, Sebastian, Viding, & Roiser, under review). ...
Article
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Disrupted empathic processing is a core feature of psychopathy. Neuroimaging data have suggested that individuals with high levels of psychopathic traits show atypical responses to others' pain in a network of brain regions typically recruited during empathic processing (anterior insula, inferior frontal gyrus, and mid- and anterior cingulate cortex). Here, we investigated whether neural responses to others' pain vary with psychopathic traits within the general population in a similar manner to that found in individuals at the extreme end of the continuum. As predicted, variation in psychopathic traits was associated with variation in neural responses to others' pain in the network of brain regions typically engaged during empathic processing. Consistent with previous research, our findings indicated the presence of suppressor effects in the association of levels of the affective-interpersonal and lifestyle-antisocial dimensions of psychopathy with neural responses to others' pain. That is, after controlling for the influence of the other dimension, higher affective-interpersonal psychopathic traits were associated with reduced neural responses to others' pain, whilst higher lifestyle-antisocial psychopathic traits were associated with increased neural responses to others' pain. Our findings provide further evidence that atypical function in this network might represent neural markers of disrupted emotional and empathic processing; that the two dimensions of psychopathy might tap into distinct underlying vulnerabilities; and, most importantly, that the relationships observed at the extreme end of the psychopathy spectrum apply to the nonclinical distribution of these traits, providing further evidence for continuities in the mechanisms underlying psychopathic traits across the general population.
... Psychopaths thus appear contemptuous in all of their interactions: arrogant, without guilt, empathy, shame, or social sadness; exploitative, reactively intolerant, and externalizingall adaptive dispositions vis-à-vis someone held in contempt. Supporting this, clinical psychopaths are capable of empathy, but are usually unmotivated to empathize (Meffert et al. 2013), and subclinical psychopathic traits predict the conditioning of concern and relational investment on another's manifest relational value (Arbuckle & Cunningham 2012;Gervais et al. 2013;Molenberghs et al. 2014). ...
Article
Gervais & Fessler's analysis collapses across two orthogonal dimensions of social value to explain contempt: relational value, predicted by cooperation, and agentic value, predicted by status. These dimensions interact to potentiate specific social emotions and behaviors in intergroup contexts. By neglecting the unique roles of these dimensions – and their associated attributes: warmth and competence – the sentiment framework cedes predictive precision.
... In further support of these predictions, a recent study by Feng et al. (2016) demonstrated that participants exhibited more activity in the AI and anterior medial cingulate cortex (aMCC) when a target in pain was a member of a low compared to high status outgroup. While Molenberghs et al. (2014), found that group membership had no effect on activation in the ACC or AI in their study, they did not measure how the outgroup was perceived by the participants. It is not possible, therefore, to rule out whether participants perceived the outgroup as a relevant rival to the ingroup-which previous research has demonstrated is crucial for the emergence of intergroup empathic bias (Cikara et al., 2014). ...
Article
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Individuals feel more empathy for those in their group (i.e. ingroup members) than those who are not (i.e. outgroup members). But empathy is not merely selective to group distinctions, rather it fluctuates according to how groups are perceived. The goal of this research was to determine whether group-based evaluations can drive biases in self-reported empathy as well as in the underlying neural activity. Participants were asked to rate a target’s physical pain while BOLD responses were recorded via functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). The target was either a member of the ingroup or one of two outgroups, one which was more of a rival to the ingroup than the other. Participants reported more empathy for targets experiencing painful compared to innocuous events showing bias only in favour of their ingroup. Neural responses were stronger while observing painful, compared to innocuous, events but only for targets from the ingroup or the less competitive outgroup. The difference was non-significant and trended in the opposite direction when the target was from the more competitive outgroup. This provides evidence that empathy is not merely selective to “us” vs “them” but is more nuanced by whom we refer to by “them”.
... The mOFC is engaged by the subjective value of choice alternatives 18,19 , during anticipation of rewards and at the time of rewarded outcomes 20-23 . This region is also intimately involved in social cognition 24,25 , and during in group categorization and pro-group behaviour 8,26,27 . ...
Article
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Humans have a strong need to belong to social groups and a natural inclination to benefit ingroup members. Although the psychological mechanisms behind human prosociality have extensively been studied, the specific neural systems bridging group belongingness and altruistic motivation remain to be identified. Here, we used soccer fandom as an ecological framing of group membership to investigate the neural mechanisms underlying ingroup altruistic behaviour in male fans using event-related functional magnetic resonance. We designed an effort measure based on handgrip strength to assess the motivation to earn money (i) for oneself, (ii) for anonymous ingroup fans, or (iii) for a neutral group of anonymous non-fans. While overlapping valuation signals in the medial orbitofrontal cortex (mOFC) were observed for the three conditions, the subgenual cingulate cortex (SCC) exhibited increased functional connectivity with the mOFC as well as stronger hemodynamic responses for ingroup versus outgroup decisions. These findings indicate a key role for the SCC, a region previously implicated in altruistic decisions and group affiliation, in dovetailing altruistic motivations with neural valuation systems in real-life ingroup behaviour.
... Blair 12 suggested the processing of social-affective information (e.g., sad or fearful facial expressions) signaling when one's own choices have detrimental outcomes for others is impaired in psychopathy, and that this impairment interferes with social and moral decision-making 20,40 . Indeed, some studies have found diminished physiological reactions to negative emotional stimuli (e.g., fearful and angry faces) among psychopathic offenders during passive observation as compared to nonpsychopathic controls 41,42 . ...
Article
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Individuals with high levels of psychopathic tendencies tend to show a lack of guilt, a lack of empathic concern, and a disregard for the impact of their decisions on others. However, how guilt influences social decision-making for those with high psychopathic traits is still unknown. Here, we investigated how psychopathic traits relate to the capacity to acquire knowledge about social expectations, and to what extent guilt aversion affects subsequent decision-making. 63 participants completed self-report measures of psychopathy, and then played a modified Trust Game in the role of the Trustee. Results showed that participants’ self-reported beliefs about their partner’s expectations were largely predictive of the amount of money they returned to the partner. These decisions were negatively correlated with the PPI-I scores. Furthermore, participants’ degree of guilt aversion were negatively correlated with PPI total scores. Our findings suggest that individuals with higher psychopathic traits are indeed capable of understanding the expectations of others, but do not seem to directly utilise this knowledge in their social decision-making, and experience less anticipated guilt about this. The present study provides empirical evidence of intact social knowledge coupled with decreased reciprocity and diminished guilt aversion as levels of psychopathic traits increase.
... Moreover, another way to trigger perspective taking rather than social comparison is to assume shared group identity with the discloser (e.g., identify a common goal) (Turner, 1975). Studies have shown that shared group identity facilitates perspective taking and increases the likelihood that a person will experience happiness when other people achieve positive outcomes (e.g., Cikara et al., 2014; see also Molenberghs et al., 2014;Ganegoda and Bordia, 2019). Similarly, positive interpersonal relationships and task interdependence help trigger perspective taking rather than social comparison (see Ganegoda and Bordia, 2019). ...
Article
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In order to capitalize on positive emotions at work and build high-quality interpersonal relationships and psychological safety, it is important that coworkers respond to each other’s positive emotions in a constructive and validating way. However, despite the importance of symmetrical emotion regulation outcomes, organizational research has largely overlooked how an employee can positively respond to coworkers’ positive emotions. Existing research has concentrated almost exclusively on negative ways of responding, with a particular focus on envy. This article develops a theoretical model of employees’ positive responses to coworkers’ positive emotional experiences, introduced here as a validating response. We identify four steps – noticing, sensemaking, feeling, and acting – and the key mechanisms within each step that enable a responder to react in a validating way. We connect the validating response to important potential individual and organizational outcomes. These outcomes include improved relationship quality and trust, as well as increased positivity and well-being that can result in enhanced learning behavior and collaboration. This article also discusses the connection between a validating response and compassion. We identify them both as parallel affirmative processes that acknowledge a coworker’s emotions, with the former being a response to positive emotion while the latter is a response to negative emotion.
... Taken together, existing evidence suggests that psychopathic offenders tend to perceive aggression as a useful tool with which to satisfy a selfish need. They view violence "cognitively," as a means to an end, attaching little emotion to such behavior and seeing it as little different from other instrumental acts (see Molenberghs et al., 2014). Exhibiting negligible remorse even years after committing a crime, psychopathic offenders verbally describe their violent actions as being more reactive and less planned than indicated either in official file records or in their own use of specific words reflecting instrumental motives. ...
Chapter
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P sychopaths are manipulative, callous, remorseless , impulsive, irresponsible, antisocial individuals with an emotionally barren disposition. Together, these traits often result in aggressive behavior, and our purpose in this chapter is to explore the manner in which, and the reasons why, this may occur. We begin by outlining the contribution of psychopathy to the prediction of whether, and the degree to which, specific persons, among criminal offenders in particular, engage in aggressive behavior. Our attention then turns to the characteristics of violent actions by psycho-pathic individuals. We review studies investigating the nature of their violent behavior, consider research on links among psychopathy, thrill-seeking, and sadistic behavior, and discuss how this work can inform our understanding of the criminal motivations of violent psychopathic offenders. We conclude with a discussion of other populations (youth and civil psychiatric patients) in which psychopathy, and affiliated aggressive behaviors, are manifested.
... In addition to the VMPFC, the orbitofrontal cortex appears to be involved in the processing of salient information related to the possible sense of guilt or moral judgment experienced by individuals (Eres et al. 2018;Molenberghs et al., 2014Molenberghs et al., , 2015Moll et al., 2002a). Instead, the temporal-parietal junction and the precuneus appear to be implicated in the attribution of mental states related to others' moral judgment (Eres et al. 2018;Young and Koenigs, 2007). ...
Article
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The neuroscience interest for moral decision-making has recently increased. To investigate the processes underlying moral behavior, this research aimed to investigate neurophysiological and behavioral correlates of decision-making in moral contexts. Specifically, functional Near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) allowed to record oxygenated (O2Hb) and deoxygenated (HHb) cerebral hemoglobin concentrations during different moral conditions (professional fit, company fit, social fit) and offers types (fair, unfair, neutral). Moreover, individuals' responses to offers types and reaction time (RTs) were considered. Specifically, from hemodynamic results emerged a difference in O2Hb and HHb activity according to moral conditions and offers types in different brain regions. In particular, O2Hb increase and a HHb decrease were observed in ventromedial and dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (VMPFC, DLPFC) for fair offers in professional fit condition and in superior temporal sulcus (STS) for unfair offers in social fit condition. Moreover, an increase of left O2Hb activity in professional fit condition and in right VMPFC for unfair offers in company fit condition was observed. In addition, from behavioral results, an RTs increase in company and social fit condition for fair and unfair offers emerged. This study, therefore, shows the behavioral and neurophysiological correlates of moral decision-making that guide moral behavior in different context, such as company one.
... When imagining another person in pain, psychopathic offenders show attenuated bilateral AI activity ( Decety et al., 2013 ). Moreover, psychopathic traits are negatively related to AI activity when administering punishment to others ( Molenberghs et al., 2014 ), anticipating guilt for moral transgressions ( Seara-Cardoso et al., 2016 ) and responding emotionally to others' affective faces ( Seara-Cardoso et al., 2016 ) in community samples. The left AI in psychopathic offenders has also been reported to be thinner and less functionally connected to dorsal anterior cingulate cortex, another important node in the empathy network ( Ly et al., 2012 ;Philippi et al., 2015 ). ...
Article
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Psychopathic individuals are notorious for their callous disregard for others' emotions. Prior research has linked psychopathy to deficits in affective mechanisms underlying empathy (e.g., affective sharing), yet research relating psychopathy to cognitive mechanisms underlying empathy (e.g., affective perspective-taking and Theory of Mind) requires further clarification. To elucidate the neurobiology of cognitive mechanisms of empathy in psychopathy, we administered an fMRI task and tested for global as well as emotion-specific deficits in affective perspective-taking. Adult male incarcerated offenders (N=94) viewed images of two people interacting, with one individual's face obscured by a shape. Participants were cued to either identify the emotion of the obscured individual or identify the shape from one of two emotion or shape choices presented on each trial. Target emotions included anger, fear, happiness, sadness, and neutral. Contrary to predictions, psychopathy was unrelated to neural activity in the Affective Perspective-taking > Shape contrast. In line with predictions, psychopathy was negatively related to task accuracy during affective perspective-taking for fear, happiness, and sadness. Psychopathy was related to reduced hemodynamic activity exclusively during fear perspective-taking in several areas: left anterior insula extending into posterior orbitofrontal cortex, right precuneus, left superior parietal lobule, and left superior occipital cortex. Although much prior research has emphasized psychopathy-related abnormalities in affective mechanisms mediating empathy, current results add to growing evidence of psychopathy-related abnormalities in a cognitive mechanism related to empathy. These findings highlight brain regions that are hypoactive in psychopathy when explicitly processing another's fear.
... For the purposes of this article, such work is still in its infancy: It does not explore the multivariate complexity of choices among collective actors' tactics for example. However, neural profiles underpinning some common aspects of collective action have begun to be mapped, for example: disproportionate reactions to outgroup threat (e.g., Molenberghs, Gapp, Wang, Louis, & Decety, 2016) or differences in reward and aversion when helping or harming ingroup and outgroup members (Molenberghs et al., 2014). In theory, these neural-level responses should mediate the relationship between exposure to a viral outrage transgression and decisions to act. ...
Article
Collective action is volatile: characterized by swift, unexpected changes in intensity, target, and forms. We conduct a detailed exploration of four reasons that these changes occur. First, action is about identities which are fluid, contested, and multifaceted. As the content of groups’ identities change, so do the specific norms for the identities. Second, social movements adopt new tactics, or forms of collective action. Tactical changes may arise from changes in identity, but also changes in the target or opponent groups, and changes in the relationships with targets and with other actors. Factions or wings of a group in conflict may in turn form identities based on opposition or support for differing tactics. Third, social movements change because participant motivation ebbs, surges, and also changes in quality (e.g., becoming more subjectively autonomous, or self‐determined). Finally, political social change occurs within socio‐political structures; these structures implicate higher‐level norms, which both constrain and emerge from actions (e.g., state openness or repression). Our analysis presents idealized and descriptive models of these relationships, and a new model to examine tactical changes empirically, the DIME model. This model highlights that collective actors can D isidentify after failure (giving up and walking away); they can I nnovate, or try something new; and they can commit harder, convinced that they are right, with increased moral urgency (M oralization) and redoubled efforts (E nergization).
... 其 中的原因可能是, 左侧AI对积极和消极情感都能加 工或者只加工积极情感, 右侧AI仅加工消极情感 [51] . [52] ; 当看到朋友或自己认同的人获得奖励时, 被 试的腹侧纹状体也会得到激活 [53,54] ; 愉悦触摸体验 的移情会激活眶前额叶 [55] . ...
... Significant target-perceiver effects have also been observed in studies examining in-group/out-group effects in empathic pain and pleasure. In these studies participants typically show stronger responses to another person's pain or pleasure when they believe that this person to their own social group than when they believe that the person belongs to a different social group [26][27][28] . Interestingly, the mPFC also seems to play a role in mediating these effects 29,30 . ...
Article
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How empathically people respond to a stranger’s pain or pleasure does not only depend on the situational context, individual traits and intentions, but also on interindividual factors. Here we ask whether empathic responses towards unknown others are modulated by behavioural similarity as a potential marker of genetic relatedness. Participants watched two supposed human players who were modelled as having a strong (player LP) or weak (player NLP) tendency to lead in social situations executing penalty shots in a virtual reality robot soccer game. As predicted, empathic response were modulated by shared behavioural traits: participants whose tendency to lead was more similar to player LP’s tendency to lead experienced more reward, and showed stronger neural activity in reward-related brain regions, when they saw player LP score a goal, and participants whose tendency to lead was more similar to player NLP’s tendency to lead showed stronger empathic responses when they saw player NLP score a goal. These findings highlight the potentially evolutionary grounded role of phenotypic similarity for neural processes underlying human social perception.
... These results are consistent with some previous studies, which revealed that individuals empathetically respond to others' financial rewards. For instance, a handful of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) studies have demonstrated that the participants had greater reward region activation when they observed their friends or other people who were socially similar to themselves win at gambling Molenberghs et al., 2014;Varnum et al., 2014). In contrast, when their self-interest was involved (i.e., when their low payoffs resulted from others' high payoffs), the participants gave a higher unpleasantness rating to others' high payoffs than to others' low payoffs, suggesting that the advantageous inequality enjoyed by the coplayer was perceived as unfavorable by the participants, and vice versa. ...
Article
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Previous studies have found that individuals exhibit empathic responses when others are treated unfairly. However, there remains a lack of clarity over the extent to which self-interest regulates these empathic responses, and in identifying which component of empathy is more likely to be affected. To investigate these issues, an experiment was designed based on a money distribution task with two conditions [observation condition (OC) vs. participation condition (PC)], and carried out using scalp-recorded event-related potentials (ERPs). Behavioral data showed that the participants’ empathic responses were consistent with their coplayers’ emotional expressions in the OC, whereas they were inconsistent with the coplayers’ expressions in the PC. The electrophysiological data showed that the neural encoding of facial expressions (reflected in the N170) was not affected by self-interest. However, the late stage of empathic responses (LPP) showed a decline when participants’ self-interest was involved. Disadvantageous inequality and relatively fair distribution to others elicited a more pronounced feedback-related negativity (FRN) than advantageous inequality distribution in both the OC and PC. As the late stage of empathic responses is also indexed by the LPP amplitude, these results indicate that the participants were more concerned for their own outcomes than for others’ benefits when self-interest was involved, which reduced their empathy toward their coplayers at the late stage of empathic responses.
... The neural learning signal reflecting learned anticipation of pain relief correlated with changes of activation in the right AI, the same structure that showed the strongest preversus post reduction in pain-related responses. It is well known that the AI plays an important role in social categorization [33 -36] and is among those regions that are sensitive to social rewards and punishments [49,50]. Falk et al. [33] proposed that brain regions that are sensitive to social rewards and punishments, such as the AI, might mediate the relationship between social influences and behavioural or physiological responses. ...
Article
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Pain feels different in different social contexts, yet the mechanisms behind social pain modulation remain poorly understood. To elucidate the impact of social context on pain processing, we investigated how group member- ship, one of the most important social context factors, shapes pain relief behaviourally and neurally in humans undergoing functional neuroimaging. Participants repeatedly received pain relief from a member of their own group (ingroup treatment) or a member of a disliked outgroup (outgroup treatment). We observed a decrease in pain ratings and anterior insula (AI) pain responses after outgroup treatment, but not after ingroup treat- ment. Moreover, path analyses revealed that the outgroup treatment induced a stronger relief learning in the AI, which in turn altered pain pro- cessing, in particular if the participant entered the treatment with a negative impression toward the outgroup individual. The finding of enhanced analgesia after outgroup treatment is relevant for intergroup clinical settings. More generally, we found that group membership affects pain responses through neural learning and we thus elucidate one possible mechanism through which social context impacts pain processing.
... Indeed, these broader studies further highlighted the difficulty inherent in classifying or developing task conditions as "rewarding". For example, studies within our expanded pool used tasks that required participants to give electric shocks or rewards to in-group and outgroup members (Molenberghs et al., 2014) and that explored neural responsivity to unfair monetary offers in social ultimatum or dictator games (Osumi et al., 2012;Vieira et al., 2014). It is unlikely that these tasks are comparable with those focused on simple monetary loss within nonsocial contexts (i.e., Is punishing others with an electric shock rewarding or punishing? ...
Article
Antisocial Behavior (AB) has a tremendous societal cost, motivating investigation of the mechanisms that cause individuals to engage and persist in AB. Recent theories of AB emphasize the role of reward-related neural processes in the etiology of severe and chronic forms of AB, including antisocial personality disorder and psychopathy. However, no systematic reviews have evaluated the hypothesis that reward-related neural dysfunction is an etiologic factor in AB in adult samples. Moreover, it is unclear whether AB is linked to a hyper- or hyposensitive reward system and whether AB is related to neural sensitivity to losses. Thus, the current systematic review examined whether AB (including antisocial personality disorder) and psychopathic traits are related to neural reactivity during reward processing, loss processing, or both. Our review identified seven task-based functional MRI or functional connectivity studies that examined associations between neural response to reward and loss, and dimensional and categorical measures of adult AB and/or psychopathy. Across studies, there was evidence that AB is associated with variability in neural functioning during both reward and loss processing. In particular, impulsive-antisocial traits appeared to be specifically associated with hypersensitivity in the ventral striatum during the anticipation, but not the receipt, of rewards.
... For instance, research on the role of race in courtroom settings finds prejudiced responses of White juries to Black suspects and of Black juries to White suspects (Sargent & Bradfield, 2004;Sommers & Ellsworth, 2000). Similar in-group favorability effects have been found in experimental settings using economic games (Bernhard, Fischbacher, & Fehr, 2006;Schiller, Baumgartner, & Knoch, 2014) and in the neuroscientific literature (Molenberghs et al., 2014). Moreover, using fictional vignettes, evolutionary psychology research has shown that people punish perpetrators most leniently for the same deed if the victim was a close kin (family member), and increasingly more harshly in the case of a friend (schoolmate) or a stranger (foreigner), respectively (Lieberman & Linke, 2007;Linke, 2012). ...
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The present research investigated event-related, contextual, demographic, and dispositional predictors of the desire to punish perpetrators of immoral deeds in daily life, as well as connections among the desire to punish, moral emotions, and momentary well-being. The desire to punish was reliably predicted by linear gradients of social closeness to both the perpetrator (negative relationship) and the victim (positive relationship). Older rather than younger adults, conservatives rather than people with other political orientations, and individuals high rather than low in moral identity desired to punish perpetrators more harshly. The desire to punish was related to state anger, disgust, and embarrassment, and these were linked to lower momentary well-being. However, the negative effect of these emotions on well-being was partially compensated by a positive indirect pathway via heightened feelings of moral self-worth. Implications of the present field data for moral punishment research and the connection between morality and well-being are discussed.
... For instance, research on the role of race in courtroom settings finds prejudiced responses of White juries to Black suspects and of Black juries to White suspects (Sargent & Bradfield, 2004;Sommers & Ellsworth, 2000). Similar in-group favorability effects have been found in experimental settings using economic games (Bernhard, Fischbacher, & Fehr, 2006;Schiller, Baumgartner, & Knoch, 2014) and in the neuroscientific literature (Molenberghs et al., 2014). Moreover, using fictional vignettes, evolutionary psychology research has shown that people punish perpetrators most leniently for the same deed if the victim was a close kin (family member), and increasingly more harshly in the case of a friend (schoolmate), or a stranger (foreigner), respectively (Lieberman & Linke, 2007;Linke, 2012). ...
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The present research investigated event-related, contextual, demographic, and dispositional predictors of the desire to punish perpetrators of immoral deeds in daily life, as well as connections among the desire to punish, moral emotions, and momentary well-being. The desire to punish was reliably predicted by linear gradients of social closeness to both the perpetrator (negative relationship) and the victim (positive relationship). Older rather than younger adults, conservatives rather than people with other political orientations, and individuals high rather than low in moral identity desired to punish perpetrators more harshly. The desire to punish was related to state anger, disgust, and embarrassment, and these were linked to lower momentary well-being. However, the negative effect of these emotions on well-being was partially compensated by a positive indirect pathway via heightened feelings of moral self-worth. Implications of the present field data for moral punishment research and the connection between morality and well-being are discussed.
... Motivation to avoid bias toward racial out-member ameliorated differences in regional brain activations in association with race-based impression formation ). These and many other studies have highlighted the importance of race membership in determining social and affective brain responses and suggested a potentially powerful effect of racial cultural identity on human behavior (Freeman et al. 2009;Forbes et al. 2012;Cheon et al. 2013;Contreras-Huerta et al. 2013;Sheng et al. 2013;Telzer et al. 2013;Chekroud et al. 2014;Cloutier et al. 2014;Losin et al. 2014;Molenberghs et al. 2014;Sessa et al. 2014;Sheng et al. 2014;Cao et al. 2015;Li et al. 2015;Molapour et al. 2015;Wang et al. 2015; see also (Chiao 2015) for a review). ...
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Previous studies have shown cultural differences in the behavioral and neural processes of perspective taking and social emotional processing. It is less clear whether culture influences cognitive functions that do not explicitly involve face perception, group membership or social interactions. Here, we addressed this issue by imaging 29 Asians and 168 European Americans while they performed a stop signal task (SST)—a behavioral paradigm widely used to study cognitive control. In the SST participants responded to a frequent go signal and interrupted their response to an infrequent stop signal. Imaging data were processed by published routines implemented in Statistical Parametric Mapping. Behaviorally Asians and European Americans did not differ in SST performance measures, including the go and stop success rates, go and stop signal reaction time, and the sequential effect, an index of performance monitoring and behavioral adjustment. In a Bayesian model of the SST performance, we identified regional responses to stimulus prediction error (expecting go while encountering stop signal or vice versa) and showed that the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex (dACC) responded to Bayesian prediction error, a surprise signal. Importantly, compared to European Americans, Asians showed higher dACC response to prediction error in a voxelwise analysis examined at a corrected threshold. This finding suggested that, although an increased response to surprise did not impact behavioral performance, Asians appeared to exhibit higher arousal to a salient signal than European Americans, a process likely mediated by midbrain catecholaminergic system. This finding supports racial cultural differences in cognitive and affective processes that go beyond the domains of social emotions, and adds to a growing literature of cultural neuroscience.
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Social group membership modulates the neural processing of emotional facial expressions, which, in turn, recruits part of the neural production system. However, little is known about how mixed – and potentially conflicting – social identity cues affect this mechanism. In this study, we tested the hypothesis that incongruent cues of two group memberships (ethnic and experimentally created minimal groups) elicit conflict processing for neutral and, in particular, angry facial expressions. We further expected this interaction of ethnic group, minimal group and emotion to also modulate activation in an emotional production-perception network. Twenty-two healthy German subjects saw dynamic angry and neutral facial expressions, presented in short video clips during functional MRI scanning. All depicted actors belonged to an ethnic in– or outgroup (German or Turkish descent) as well as an ad hoc experimentally created minimal in– or outgroup. Additionally, subjects produced angry or neutral expressions themselves. The whole-brain interaction of ethnic group, minimal group and emotion revealed activity in the right parietal lobule and left cerebellum. Both showed strongest activation for angry faces with conflicting group memberships (e.g., ‘ethnic outgroup/minimal ingroup’). In addition, a sub-region of the left cerebellum cluster was also activated for both perceiving and producing angry versus neutral expressions. These results suggest that incongruent group members displaying angry facial expressions elicit conflict processing. Group interaction effects in an emotional production-perception network further indicate stronger neural resonance for incongruent group members.
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Understanding how psychopathy compares with brain disease can help clarify its underlying mechanisms. This literature review is a broad overview of the neurobiology of psychopathic traits in comparison to behavioral variant frontotemporal dementia (bvFTD), a disorder uniquely associated with criminal behavior. In addition to violation of social norms, both psychopathy and bvFTD result in impaired socioemotional perception and empathy, impulsivity, and altered moral judgment. Despite wide areas of decreased function in psychopathy, structural changes are primarily evident in amygdala and, to a lesser extent, anterior insula, whereas in bvFTD neuropathology involves a wider paralimbic region. In psychopathy, relatively intact medial prefrontal and anterior cingulate cortices facilitate theory of mind and psychopathic traits such as deceitfulness and manipulation, bold fearlessness, and risk-taking behavior. In conclusion, many frontotemporal areas are hypoactive in psychopathy and bvFTD, but differences in dysfunctional connectivity in psychopathy vs. direct involvement in bvFTD potentially explain similarities and differences between these two conditions.
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Introduction: Core psychopathy is characterized by grandiosity, callousness, manipulativeness, and lack of remorse, empathy, and guilt. It is often comorbid with conduct disorder and antisocial personality disorder (ASPD). Psychopathy is present in forensic as well as prison and general populations. In recent years, an increasing amount of neuroimaging studies has been conducted in order to elucidate the obscure neurobiological etiology of psychopathy. The studies have yielded heterogenous results, and no consensus has been reached. Aims: This study systematically reviewed and qualitatively summarized functional and structural neuroimaging studies conducted on individuals with psychopathic traits. Furthermore, this study aimed to evaluate whether the findings from different MRI modalities could be reconciled from a neuroanatomical perspective. Materials and methods: After the search and auditing processes, 118 neuroimaging studies were included in this systematic literature review. The studies consisted of structural, functional, and diffusion tensor MRI studies. Results: Psychopathy was associated with numerous neuroanatomical abnormalities. Structurally, gray matter anomalies were seen in frontotemporal, cerebellar, limbic, and paralimbic regions. Associated gray matter volume (GMV) reductions were most pronounced particularly in most of the prefrontal cortex, and temporal gyri including the fusiform gyrus. Also decreased GMV of the amygdalae and hippocampi as well the cingulate and insular cortices were associated with psychopathy, as well as abnormal morphology of the hippocampi, amygdala, and nucleus accumbens. Functionally, psychopathy was associated with dysfunction of the default mode network, which was also linked to poor moral judgment as well as deficient metacognitive and introspective abilities. Second, reduced white matter integrity in the uncinate fasciculus and dorsal cingulum were associated with core psychopathy. Third, emotional detachment was associated with dysfunction of the posterior cerebellum, the human mirror neuron system and the Theory of Mind denoting lack of empathy and persistent failure in integrating affective information into cognition. Conclusions: Structural and functional aberrancies involving the limbic and paralimbic systems including reduced integrity of the uncinate fasciculus appear to be associated with core psychopathic features. Furthermore, this review points towards the idea that ASPD and psychopathy might stem from divergent biological processes.
Chapter
In recent years, an increasing number of neuroimaging studies have sought to identify the brain anomalies associated with psychopathy. The results of such studies could have significant implications for the clinical and legal management of psychopaths, as well as for neurobiological models of human social behavior. In this chapter we provide a critical review of structural and functional neuroimaging studies of psychopathy. In particular, we emphasize the considerable variability in results across studies and focus our discussion on three methodological issues that could contribute to the observed heterogeneity in study data: (1) the use of between-group analyses (i.e., psychopaths vs. non-psychopaths) as well as correlational analyses (i.e., normal variation in “psychopathic” traits), (2) discrepancies in the criteria used to classify subjects as psychopaths, and (3) consideration of psychopathic subtypes. The available evidence suggests that each of these issues could have a substantial effect on the reliability of imaging data. We propose several strategies for resolving these methodological issues in future studies, with the goal of fostering further progress in the identification of the neural correlates of psychopathy.
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Across species, including non-human primates, rodents, and humans, prosocial behavior, the act of helping others, is preferentially provided to members of one's own group. Whereas a particularly ubiquitous example of this is kinship, whereby humans and animals expend greater resources and take more risks for their own kin, in-group prosocial behavior has been demonstrated among diverse shared social groups, including race and culture. In the current study, we made group membership salient by recruiting Chinese and American participants to engage in a prosocial decision-making task during fMRI with an American and Chinese confederate. We found across all participants that donations to the in-group relative to out-group was associated with increased activation in the ventral striatum. Moreover, participants with a greater sense of group identity and Chinese participants relative to American participants, showed heightened activation in self-control (VLPFC, ACC) and mentalizing (TPJ, DMPFC) regions when contributing to the out-group relative to in-group. Our findings provide novel evidence about the neural mechanisms involved in intergroup prosocial behavior. Copyright © 2015. Published by Elsevier Inc.
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Despite the apparent sociability of human kind, immoral behaviour is ever present in society. The term ‘immoral behaviour’ represents a complex array of conduct, ranging from insensitivity to topics of conversation through to violent assault and murder. To better understand the neuroscience of immoral behaviour, this review investigates two clinical populations that commonly present with changes in moral behaviour – behavioural‐variant frontotemporal dementia and acquired brain injuries. Based on evidence from these groups, it is argued that rather than a single underlying cause, immoral behaviour can result from three distinct types of cognitive failure: (1) problems understanding others; (2) difficulties controlling behaviour; or (3) deficits in the capacity to make appropriate emotional contributions. Each of these failures is associated with damage to different brain regions. A more nuanced approach to the neuroscience of immoral behaviour has important implications for our understanding of immoral behaviour in a wide range of clinical groups, as well as human society more broadly.
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The current meta-analysis includes 477 records (N = 142,692) and comprehensively explores the complex interplay between psychopathy, antisocial behavior, and empathy. First, empathy domains (cognitive and affective) were used to dissociate antisocial behavior from psychopathy. Cognitive empathy was more impaired in antisocial groups (gcognitive = −0.43; gaffective = −0.11), while samples scoring higher in psychopathy displayed larger deficits in affective empathy (gaffective = −0.40; gcognitive = −0.22). Secondly, the specific associations between empathy domains and psychopathy dimensions were evaluated. Psychopathy traits closely related to antisocial behavior were mildly associated with both empathy domains (r = −0.03 to −0.21). Callous-affective traits were largely correlated with affective empathy (r = −0.34 to −0.46) and moderately correlated to cognitive empathy (r = −0.26 to −0.27). Diverging results were found for the interpersonal dimension, as boldness-adaptive manifestations were unrelated to cognitive empathy (r = 0.03), while non-adaptive interpersonal traits were negatively associated with both empathy domains (rcognitive = −0.16; raffective = −0.25). Overall, these findings suggest that: (1) psychopathy and antisocial behavior display distinct empathic profiles; (2) psychopathy dimensions are differentially associated with cognitive and affective empathy; (3) the interaction between interpersonal traits and empathy domains is different across the conceptual models of psychopathy.
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Aggression occurs frequently and severely between rival groups. Although there has been much study into the psychological and socio-ecological determinants of intergroup aggression, the neuroscience of this phenomenon remains incomplete. To examine the neural correlates of aggression directed at outgroup (versus ingroup) targets, we recruited 35 healthy young male participants who were current or former students of the same university. While undergoing functional MRI, participants completed an aggression task against both an ingroup and an outgroup opponent in which their opponents repeatedly provoked them at varying levels and then participants could retaliate. Participants were then socially included and then excluded by two outgroup members and then completed the same aggression task against the same two opponents. Both before and after outgroup exclusion, aggression towards outgroup members was positively associated with activity in the ventral striatum during decisions about how aggressive to be towards their outgroup opponent. Aggression towards outgroup members was also linked to greater post-exclusion activity in the rostral and dorsal medial prefrontal cortex during provocation from their outgroup opponent. These altered patterns of brain activity suggest that frontostriatal mechanisms may play a significant role in motivating aggression towards outgroup members.
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While it is well established that individuals with psychopathy have a marked deficit in affective arousal, emotional empathy, and caring for the well-being of others, the extent to which perspective taking can elicit an emotional response has not yet been studied despite its potential application in rehabilitation. In healthy individuals, affective perspective taking has proven to be an effective means to elicit empathy and concern for others. To examine neural responses in individuals who vary in psychopathy during affective perspective taking, 121 incarcerated males, classified as high (n = 37; Hare psychopathy checklist-revised, PCL-R ≥ 30), intermediate (n = 44; PCL-R between 21 and 29), and low (n = 40; PCL-R ≤ 20) psychopaths, were scanned while viewing stimuli depicting bodily injuries and adopting an imagine-self and an imagine-other perspective. During the imagine-self perspective, participants with high psychopathy showed a typical response within the network involved in empathy for pain, including the anterior insula (aINS), anterior midcingulate cortex (aMCC), supplementary motor area (SMA), inferior frontal gyrus (IFG), somatosensory cortex, and right amygdala. Conversely, during the imagine-other perspective, psychopaths exhibited an atypical pattern of brain activation and effective connectivity seeded in the anterior insula and amygdala with the orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) and ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC). The response in the amygdala and insula was inversely correlated with PCL-R Factor 1 (interpersonal/affective) during the imagine-other perspective. In high psychopaths, scores on PCL-R Factor 1 predicted the neural response in ventral striatum when imagining others in pain. These patterns of brain activation and effective connectivity associated with differential perspective-taking provide a better understanding of empathy dysfunction in psychopathy, and have the potential to inform intervention programs for this complex clinical problem.
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Psychopathy is a personality disorder associated with a profound lack of empathy. Neuroscientists have associated empathy and its interindividual variation with how strongly participants activate brain regions involved in their own actions, emotions and sensations while viewing those of others. Here we compared brain activity of 18 psychopathic offenders with 26 control subjects while viewing video clips of emotional hand interactions and while experiencing similar interactions. Brain regions involved in experiencing these interactions were not spontaneously activated as strongly in the patient group while viewing the video clips. However, this group difference was markedly reduced when we specifically instructed participants to feel with the actors in the videos. Our results suggest that psychopathy is not a simple incapacity for vicarious activations but rather reduced spontaneous vicarious activations co-existing with relatively normal deliberate counterparts.
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Aims/objectives A lack of empathy is associated with callous-unemotional behaviour, violence, aggression, criminality, and problems in social interaction. Empathy is, though, inconsistently defined and inadequately measured. We therefore set out to produce a new and rigorously developed empathy questionnaire that would have clinical and public-health relevance. Methods Sixty-five questions, themed around cognitive empathy (the ability to construct a working model of the emotional states of others) and affective empathy (the ability to be sensitive to and vicariously experience the feelings of others), were administered to two independent samples of healthy volunteers (N1=640, N2=383), which were used to explore and validate the factor structure. Results Principal components analysis revealed five factors from thirty-seven items. Confirmatory factor analysis confirmed this structure. The hypothesised two-factor structure (cognitive and affective empathy) was tested by adding two second order factors, indicated by the five first-order factors, and provided the best and most parsimonious fit to the data (CFI=0.961, RMSEA=0.048). Cognitive Empathy encompassed Perspective Taking and Online Simulation; Affective Empathy encompassed Emotional Responsivity, Peripheral Responsivity and Emotional Contagion. Females scored significantly higher than males on Affective Empathy but not on Cognitive Empathy. The factors correlated significantly with measures of empathic anger, impulsivity, aggression, psychopathy, Machiavellianism and empathy as measured by the Basic Empathy Scale. Conclusions The QCAE measures the distinct and specific components that make up cognitive and affective empathy. The factor structure was confirmed in independent samples and represents a valid tool for assessing cognitive and affective empathy and its subcomponents.
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Racism and in-group favoritism is prevalent in our society and has been studied in Social Psychology for a long time. Recently it has become possible to investigate the neural mechanisms that underlie these in-group biases, and hence this review will give an overview of recent developments on the topic. Rather than relying on a single brain region or network, it seems that subtle changes in neural activation across the brain, depending on the modalities involved, underlie how we divide the world into 'us' versus 'them'. These insights have important implications for our understanding of how in-group biases develop and could potentially lead to new insights on how to reduce them.
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Empathy involves affective, cognitive, and emotion regulative components. The affective component relies on the sharing of emotional states with others and is discussed here in relation to the human Mirror System. On the other hand, the cognitive component is related to understanding the mental states of others and draws upon literature surrounding Theory of Mind (ToM). The final component, emotion regulation, depends on executive function and is responsible for managing the degree to which explicit empathic responses are made. This mini-review provides information on how each of the three components is individually affected by group membership and how this leads to in-group bias.
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Children with conduct problems (CP) persistently violate others' rights and represent a considerable societal cost [1]. These children also display atypical empathic responses to others' distress [2], which may partly account for their violent and antisocial behavior. Callous traits index lack of empathy in these children and confer risk for adult psychopathy [3]. Investigating neural responses to others' pain is an ecologically valid method to probe empathic processing [4], but studies in children with CP have been inconclusive [5, 6]. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), we measured neural responses to pictures of others in pain (versus no pain) in a large sample of children with CP and matched controls. Relative to controls, children with CP showed reduced blood oxygen level-dependent responses to others' pain in bilateral anterior insula (AI), anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), and inferior frontal gyrus, regions associated with empathy for pain in previous studies [7, 8]. In the CP group, callous traits were negatively associated with responses to others' pain in AI and ACC. We conclude that children with CP have atypical neural responses to others' pain. The negative association between callous traits and AI/ACC response could reflect an early neurobiological marker indexing risk for empathic deficits seen in adult psychopathy.
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Background: Psychopathic traits are associated with increases in antisocial behaviors such as aggression and are characterized by reduced empathy for others' distress. This suggests that psychopathic traits may also impair empathic pain sensitivity. However, whether psychopathic traits affect responses to the pain of others versus the self has not been previously assessed. Method: We used whole-brain functional magnetic resonance imaging to measure neural activation in 14 adolescents with oppositional defiant disorder or conduct disorder and psychopathic traits, as well as 21 healthy controls matched on age, gender, and intelligence. Activation in structures associated with empathic pain perception was assessed as adolescents viewed photographs of pain-inducing injuries. Adolescents imagined either that the body in each photograph was their own or that it belonged to another person. Behavioral and neuroimaging data were analyzed using random-effects analysis of variance. Results: Youths with psychopathic traits showed reduced activity within regions associated with empathic pain as the depicted pain increased. These regions included rostral anterior cingulate cortex, ventral striatum (putamen), and amygdala. Reductions in amygdala activity particularly occurred when the injury was perceived as occurring to another. Empathic pain responses within both amygdala and rostral anterior cingulate cortex were negatively correlated with the severity of psychopathic traits as indexed by PCL:YV scores. Conclusions: Youths with psychopathic traits show less responsiveness in regions implicated in the affective response to another's pain as the perceived intensity of this pain increases. Moreover, this reduced responsiveness appears to predict symptom severity.
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Group membership is an important aspect of our everyday behavior. Recently, we showed that existing relevant in-group labels increased activation in the medial prefrontal cortex (MPFC) compared with out-group labels, suggesting a role of the MPFC in social categorization. However, the question still remains whether this increase in MPFC activation for in-group representation is solely related with previous experience with the in-group. To test this, we randomly assigned participants to a red or blue team and in a subsequent functional magnetic resonance imaging experiment they categorized red and blue team words as belonging to either the in-group or the out-group. Results showed that even under these minimal conditions increased activation was found in the MPFC when participants indicated that they belonged to a group, as compared with when they did not. This effect was found to be associated with the level of group identification. These results confirm the role of MPFC in social categorization.
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Minimal group experiments showed that mere categorization of individuals into arbitrary social groups can be sufficient to elicit ingroup favouritism. This effect has been qualified by demonstrating a positive–negative asymmetry in social discrimination: categorization into minimal, laboratory groups was sufficient to elicit ingroup favouritism in allocations of positive stimuli, but not in allocations of negative ones. Different explanatory perspectives for this valence-specific asymmetry in intergroup behaviour were tested. An integrative perspective linking normative, cognitive and motivational aspects is proposed. This perspective also implies a critical analysis and re-framing of traditional theorizing on categorization effects in minimal intergroup situations.
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Recent advances in social neuroscience research have unveiled the neurophysiological correlates of race and intergroup processing. However, little is known about the neural mechanisms underlying intergroup empathy. Combining event-related fMRI with measurements of pupil dilation as an index of autonomic reactivity, we explored how race and group membership affect empathy-related responses. White and Black subjects were presented with video clips depicting white, black, and unfamiliar violet-skinned hands being either painfully penetrated by a syringe or being touched by a Q-tip. Both hemodynamic activity within areas known to be involved in the processing of first and third-person emotional experiences of pain, i.e., bilateral anterior insula, and autonomic reactivity were greater for the pain experienced by own-race compared to that of other-race and violet models. Interestingly, greater implicit racial bias predicted increased activity within the left anterior insula during the observation of own-race pain relative to other-race pain. Our findings highlight the close link between group-based segregation and empathic processing. Moreover, they demonstrate the relative influence of culturally acquired implicit attitudes and perceived similarity/familiarity with the target in shaping emotional responses to others' physical pain. Hum Brain Mapp, 2012. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
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As the racial composition of the population changes, intergroup interactions are increasingly common. To understand how we perceive and categorize race and the attitudes that flow from it, scientists have used brain imaging techniques to examine how social categories of race and ethnicity are processed, evaluated and incorporated in decision-making. We review these findings, focusing on black and white race categories. A network of interacting brain regions is important in the unintentional, implicit expression of racial attitudes and its control. On the basis of the overlap in the neural circuitry of race, emotion and decision-making, we speculate as to how this emerging research might inform how we recognize and respond to variations in race and its influence on unintended race-based attitudes and decisions.
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Empathy--the ability to share the feelings of others--is fundamental to our emotional and social lives. Previous human imaging studies focusing on empathy for others' pain have consistently shown activations in regions also involved in the direct pain experience, particularly anterior insula and anterior and midcingulate cortex. These findings suggest that empathy is, in part, based on shared representations for firsthand and vicarious experiences of affective states. Empathic responses are not static but can be modulated by person characteristics, such as degree of alexithymia. It has also been shown that contextual appraisal, including perceived fairness or group membership of others, may modulate empathic neuronal activations. Empathy often involves coactivations in further networks associated with social cognition, depending on the specific situation and information available in the environment. Empathy-related insular and cingulate activity may reflect domain-general computations representing and predicting feeling states in self and others, likely guiding adaptive homeostatic responses and goal-directed behavior in dynamic social contexts.
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Empathy has been inconsistently defined and inadequately measured. This research aimed to produce a new and rigorously developed questionnaire. Exploratory (n₁ = 640) and confirmatory (n₂ = 318) factor analyses were employed to develop the Questionnaire of Cognitive and Affective Empathy (QCAE). Principal components analysis revealed 5 factors (31 items). Confirmatory factor analysis confirmed this structure in an independent sample. The hypothesized 2-factor structure (cognitive and affective empathy) was tested and provided the best and most parsimonious fit to the data. Gender differences, convergent validity, and construct validity were examined. The QCAE is a valid tool for assessing cognitive and affective empathy.
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A growing body of evidence suggests that empathy for pain is underpinned by neural structures that are also involved in the direct experience of pain. In order to assess the consistency of this finding, an image-based meta-analysis of nine independent functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) investigations and a coordinate-based meta-analysis of 32 studies that had investigated empathy for pain using fMRI were conducted. The results indicate that a core network consisting of bilateral anterior insular cortex and medial/anterior cingulate cortex is associated with empathy for pain. Activation in these areas overlaps with activation during directly experienced pain, and we link their involvement to representing global feeling states and the guidance of adaptive behavior for both self- and other-related experiences. Moreover, the image-based analysis demonstrates that depending on the type of experimental paradigm this core network was co-activated with distinct brain regions: While viewing pictures of body parts in painful situations recruited areas underpinning action understanding (inferior parietal/ventral premotor cortices) to a stronger extent, eliciting empathy by means of abstract visual information about the other's affective state more strongly engaged areas associated with inferring and representing mental states of self and other (precuneus, ventral medial prefrontal cortex, superior temporal cortex, and temporo-parietal junction). In addition, only the picture-based paradigms activated somatosensory areas, indicating that previous discrepancies concerning somatosensory activity during empathy for pain might have resulted from differences in experimental paradigms. We conclude that social neuroscience paradigms provide reliable and accurate insights into complex social phenomena such as empathy and that meta-analyses of previous studies are a valuable tool in this endeavor.
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Although social psychology studies suggest that racism often manifests itself as a lack of empathy, i.e., the ability to share and comprehend others' feelings and intentions, evidence for differential empathic reactivity to the pain of same- or different-race individuals is meager. Using transcranial magnetic stimulation, we explored sensorimotor empathic brain responses in black and white individuals who exhibited implicit but not explicit ingroup preference and race-specific autonomic reactivity. We found that observing the pain of ingroup models inhibited the onlookers' corticospinal system as if they were feeling the pain. Both black and white individuals exhibited empathic reactivity also when viewing the pain of stranger, very unfamiliar, violet-hand models. By contrast, no vicarious mapping of the pain of individuals culturally marked as outgroup members on the basis of their skin color was found. Importantly, group-specific lack of empathic reactivity was higher in the onlookers who exhibited stronger implicit racial bias. These results indicate that human beings react empathically to the pain of stranger individuals. However, racial bias and stereotypes may change this reactivity into a group-specific lack of sensorimotor resonance.
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Family assistance is an important aspect of family relationships for adolescents across many cultures and contexts. Motivations to help family members may be driven by both cultural factors and early family experiences. Here, we used functional magnetic resonance imaging to examine (1) cultural differences in neural reward activity among White and Latino youth during online experiences of family assistance and (2) how prior family experiences related to neural reward activity when helping the family. Participants were scanned as they made decisions to contribute money to their family and themselves. Latino and White participants showed similar behavioral levels of helping but distinct patterns of neural activity within the mesolimbic reward system. Whereas Latino participants showed more reward activity when contributing to their family, White participants showed more reward activity when gaining cash for themselves. In addition, participants who felt more identified with their family and who derived greater fulfillment from helping their family two years prior to the scan showed increased reward system activation when contributing to their family. These results suggest that family assistance may be guided, in part, by the personal rewards one attains from that assistance, and that this sense of reward may be modulated by cultural influences and prior family experiences.
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Human behaviors are motivated not only by materialistic rewards but also by abstract social rewards, such as the approval of others. When choosing an action in social situations, to evaluate each action, the brain must convert different types of reward (such as money or social approval) into a common scale. Here using fMRI, we investigated the neural correlates of such valuation computations while individuals freely decided whether to donate to real charities or to take the money for themselves in the presence or absence of observers. Behavioral evidence showed that the mere presence of observers increased donation rates, and neuroimaging results revealed that activation in the ventral striatum before the same choice ("donate" or "not donate") was significantly modulated by the presence of observers. Particularly high striatal activations were observed when a high social reward was expected (donation in public) and when there was the potential for monetary gain without social cost (no donation in the absence of observers). These findings highlight the importance of this area in representing both social and monetary rewards as a "decision utility" and add to the understanding of how the brain makes a choice using a "common neural currency" in social situations.
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The ability to infer others' thoughts, intentions, and feelings is regarded as uniquely human. Over the last few decades, this remarkable ability has captivated the attention of philosophers, primatologists, clinical and developmental psychologists, anthropologists, social psychologists, and cognitive neuroscientists. Most would agree that the capacity to reason about others' mental states is innately prepared, essential for successful human social interaction. Whether this ability is culturally tuned, however, remains entirely uncharted on both the behavioral and neural levels. Here we provide the first behavioral and neural evidence for an intracultural advantage (better performance for same- vs. other-culture) in mental state decoding in a sample of native Japanese and white American participants. We examined the neural correlates of this intracultural advantage using fMRI, revealing greater bilateral posterior superior temporal sulci recruitment during same- versus other-culture mental state decoding in both cultural groups. These findings offer preliminary support for cultural consistency in the neurological architecture subserving high-level mental state reasoning, as well as its differential recruitment based on cultural group membership.
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Because youth with aggressive conduct disorder (CD) often inflict pain on others, it is important to determine if they exhibit atypical empathic responses to viewing others in pain. In this initial functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) study, eight adolescents with aggressive CD and eight matched controls with no CD symptoms were scanned while watching animated visual stimuli depicting other people experiencing pain or not experiencing pain. Furthermore, these situations involved either an individual whose pain was caused by accident or an individual whose pain was inflicted on purpose by another person. After scanning, participants rated how painful the situations were. In both groups the perception of others in pain was associated with activation of the pain matrix, including the ACC, insula, somatosensory cortex, supplementary motor area and periaqueductal gray. The pain matrix was activated to a specific extent in participants with CD, who also showed significantly greater amygdala, striatal, and temporal pole activation. When watching situations in which pain was intentionally inflicted, control youth exhibited signal increase in the medial prefrontal cortex, lateral orbitofrontal cortex, and right temporo-parietal junction, whereas youth with CD only exhibited activation in the insula and precentral gyrus. Furthermore, connectivity analyses demonstrated that youth with CD exhibited less amygdala/prefrontal coupling when watching pain inflicted by another than did control youth. These preliminary findings suggest that youth with aggressive CD exhibit an atypical pattern of neural response to viewing others in pain that should be explored in further studies.
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Despite an increasing focus on the neural basis of human decision making in neuroscience, relatively little attention has been paid to decision making in social settings. Moreover, although human social decision making has been explored in a social psychology context, few neural explanations for the observed findings have been considered. To bridge this gap and improve models of human social decision making, we investigated whether acquiring a good reputation, which is an important incentive in human social behaviors, activates the same reward circuitry as monetary rewards. In total, 19 subjects participated in functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) experiments involving monetary and social rewards. The acquisition of one's good reputation robustly activated reward-related brain areas, notably the striatum, and these overlapped with the areas activated by monetary rewards. Our findings support the idea of a "common neural currency" for rewards and represent an important first step toward a neural explanation for complex human social behaviors.
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The human orbitofrontal cortex is an important brain region for the processing of rewards and punishments, which is a prerequisite for the complex and flexible emotional and social behaviour which contributes to the evolutionary success of humans. Yet much remains to be discovered about the functions of this key brain region, and new evidence from functional neuroimaging and clinical neuropsychology is affording new insights into the different functions of the human orbitofrontal cortex. We review the neuroanatomical and neuropsychological literature on the human orbitofrontal cortex, and propose two distinct trends of neural activity based on a meta-analysis of neuroimaging studies. One is a mediolateral distinction, whereby medial orbitofrontal cortex activity is related to monitoring the reward value of many different reinforcers, whereas lateral orbitofrontal cortex activity is related to the evaluation of punishers which may lead to a change in ongoing behaviour. The second is a posterior–anterior distinction with more complex or abstract reinforcers (such as monetary gain and loss) represented more anteriorly in the orbitofrontal cortex than simpler reinforcers such as taste or pain. Finally, we propose new neuroimaging methods for obtaining further evidence on the localisation of function in the human orbitofrontal cortex.
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Psychopathy can be considered as a dimension anchored on one end by a lack of concern for others. Even in its milder forms, psychopathy can lead to everyday antisocial behavior, such as plagiarism and cheating or getting into fistfights. Although a lack of concern for others is central to the concept of psychopathy, it is unclear whether this stems from differences in ability or motivation. In two studies, participants made decisions for themselves and others simultaneously following a manipulation of shared identity, which is known to increase the motivation for cooperative behavior. When the others were described as in-group members, participants higher in psychopathy showed greater concern for those others. This indicates that the lack of concern for others produced by everyday psychopathy is due to a lack of motivation to care about others, rather than a lack of ability to do so.
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Vul, Harris, Winkielman, and Pashler (2009), (this issue) argue that correlations in many cognitive neuroscience studies are grossly inflated due to a widespread tendency to use nonindependent analyses. In this article, I argue that Vul et al.'s primary conclusion is correct, but for different reasons than they suggest. I demonstrate that the primary cause of grossly inflated correlations in whole-brain fMRI analyses is not nonindependence, but the pernicious combination of small sample sizes and stringent alpha-correction levels. Far from defusing Vul et al.'s conclusions, the simulations presented suggest that the level of inflation may be even worse than Vul et al.'s empirical analysis would suggest. © 2009 Association for Psychological Science.
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Empathy is thought to play a key role in motivating prosocial behavior, guiding our preferences and behavioral responses, and providing the affective and motivational base for moral development. While these abilities have traditionally been examined using behavioral methods, recent work in evolutionary biology, developmental and cognitive neuroscience has begun to shed light on the neural circuitry that instantiate them. The purpose of this article is to critically examine the current knowledge in the field of affective neuroscience and provide an integrative and comprehensive view of the computational mechanisms that underlie empathy. This framework is of general interest and relevance for theory as well as for assisting future research in the domains of affective developmental neuroscience and psychopathology.
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Allport (1954) recognized that attachment to one's ingroups does not necessarily require hostility toward outgroups. Yet the prevailing approach to the study of ethnocentrism, ingroup bias, and prejudice presumes that ingroup love and outgroup hate are reciprocally related. Findings from both cross-cultural research and laboratory experiments support the alternative view that ingroup identification is independent of negative attitudes toward outgroups and that much ingroup bias and intergroup discrimination is motivated by preferential treatment of ingroup members rather than direct hostility toward outgroup members. Thus to understand the roots of prejudice and discrimination requires first of all a better understanding of the functions that ingroup formation and identification serve for human beings. This article reviews research and theory on the motivations for maintenance of ingroup boundaries and the implications of ingroup boundary protection for intergroup relations, conflict, and conflict prevention.
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The orbitofrontal cortex and adjacent ventromedial prefrontal cortex carry reward representations and mediate flexible behaviour when circumstances change. Here we review how recent experiments in humans and macaques have confirmed the existence of a major difference between the functions of the ventromedial prefrontal cortex and adjacent medial orbitofrontal cortex (mOFC) on the one hand and the lateral orbitofrontal cortex (lOFC) on the other. These differences, however, may not be best accounted for in terms of specializations for reward and error/punishment processing as is commonly assumed. Instead we argue that both lesion and functional magnetic resonance imaging studies reveal that the lOFC is concerned with the assignment of credit for both reward and error outcomes to the choice of specific stimuli and with the linking of specific stimulus representations to representations of specific types of reward outcome. By contrast, we argue that the ventromedial prefrontal cortex/mOFC is concerned with evaluation, value-guided decision-making and maintenance of a choice over successive decisions. Despite the popular view that they cause perseveration of behaviour and inability to inhibit repetition of a previously made choice, we found that lesions in neither orbitofrontal subdivision caused perseveration. On the contrary, lesions in the lOFC made animals switch more rapidly between choices when they were finding it difficult to assign reward values to choices. Lesions in the mOFC caused animals to lose their normal predisposition to repeat previously successful choices, suggesting that the mOFC does not just mediate value comparison in choice but also facilitates maintenance of the same choice if it has been successful.
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Perception–action-coupling refers to the vicarious activation of the neural system for action during perception of action, and is considered important for forms of interpersonal sensitivity, including empathy. We hypothesize that perception–action-coupling is limited to the ingroup: neural motor networks will fire upon the perception of action, but only when the object–person belongs to the ingroup; if the object–person belongs to an outgroup these motor neurons will not fire. Using electroencephalographic oscillations as an index of perception–action-coupling, we found exactly this: participants displayed activity over motor cortex when acting and when observing ingroups act, but not when observing outgroups – an effect magnified by prejudice and for disliked groups (South-Asians, then Blacks, followed by East Asians). These findings provide evidence from brain activity for yet another detrimental aspect of prejudice: a spontaneous and implicit simulation of others’ action states may be limited to close others and, without active effort, may not be available for outgroups.