Why we stay with our social partners: Neural mechanisms of stay/leave decision-making

Amber Heijne, Filippo Rossi, Alan G. Sanfey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

How do we decide to keep interacting (e.g., stay) with a social partner or to switch (e.g., leave) to another? This paper investigated the neural mechanisms of stay/leave decision-making. We hypothesized that these decisions fit within a framework of value-based decision-making, and explored four potential mechanisms underlying a hypothesized bias to stay. Twenty-six participants underwent functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) while completing social and nonsocial versions of a stay/leave decision-making task. On each trial, participants chose between four alternative options, after which they received a monetary reward. Crucially, in the social condition, reward magnitude was ostensibly determined by the generosity of social partners, whereas in the nonsocial condition, reward amounts were ostensibly determined in a pre-programmed manner. Results demonstrated that participants were more likely to stay with options of relatively high expected value, with these values updated through Reinforcement Learning mechanisms and represented neurally within ventromedial prefrontal cortex. Moreover, we demonstrated that greater brain activity in ventromedial prefrontal cortex, caudate nucleus, and septo-hypothalamic regions for social versus nonsocial decisions to stay may underlie a bias towards staying with social partners in particular. These findings complement existing social psychological theories by investigating the neural mechanisms of actual stay/leave decisions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)667-679
Number of pages13
JournalSocial Neuroscience
Volume13
Issue number6
Early online date2017
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2018

Keywords

  • Decision-making
  • stay
  • leave
  • fMRI
  • reinforcement learning
  • valuation
  • attachment
  • MEDIAL ORBITOFRONTAL CORTEX
  • INVESTMENT MODEL
  • LONGITUDINAL TEST
  • NEED FULFILLMENT
  • BRAIN ACTIVITY
  • REWARD VALUE
  • COMMITMENT
  • PREDICTION
  • SATISFACTION
  • RESPONSES

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