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Social equality in the number of choice options is represented in the ventromedial prefrontal cortex

Aoki, R., Matsumoto, M., Yomogida, Y., Izuma, K., Murayama, K., Sugiura, A., Camerer, C. F., Adolphs, R. and Matsumoto, K. (2014) Social equality in the number of choice options is represented in the ventromedial prefrontal cortex. The Journal of Neuroscience, 34 (18). pp. 6413-6421. ISSN 1529-2401

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.4427-13.2014

Abstract/Summary

A distinct aspect of the sense of fairness in humans is that we care not only about equality in material rewards but also about equality in non-material values. One such value is the opportunity to choose freely among many options, often regarded as a fundamental right to economic freedom. In modern developed societies, equal opportunities in work, living, and lifestyle are enforced by anti-discrimination laws. Despite the widespread endorsement of equal opportunity, no studies have explored how people assign value to it. We used functional magnetic resonance imaging to identify the neural substrates for subjective valuation of equality in choice opportunity. Participants performed a two-person choice task in which the number of choices available was varied across trials independently of choice outcomes. By using this procedure, we manipulated the degree of equality in choice opportunity between players and dissociated it from the value of reward outcomes and their equality. We found that activation in the ventromedial prefrontal cortex tracked the degree to which the number of options between the two players was equal. In contrast, activation in the ventral striatum tracked the number of options available to participants themselves but not the equality between players. Our results demonstrate that the vmPFC, a key brain region previously implicated in the processing of social values, is also involved in valuation of equality in choice opportunity between individuals. These findings may provide valuable insight into the human ability to value equal opportunity, a characteristic long emphasized in politics, economics, and philosophy.

Item Type:Article
Refereed:Yes
Divisions:Faculty of Life Sciences > School of Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences > Department of Psychology
Faculty of Life Sciences > School of Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences > Neuroscience
Faculty of Life Sciences > School of Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences > Psychopathology and Affective Neuroscience
Faculty of Life Sciences > School of Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences > Social
ID Code:36408
Publisher:The Society for Neuroscience

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