A Social Neuroscience Perspective on Egocentric Influence

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A Social Neuroscience Perspective on Egocentric Influence

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Title: A Social Neuroscience Perspective on Egocentric Influence
Author: Tamir, Diana Ilse
Citation: Tamir, Diana Ilse. 2014. A Social Neuroscience Perspective on Egocentric Influence. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University.
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Abstract: This dissertation explores the cognitive mechanisms and motivations that guide two aspects of human social behavior: thinking about other's experiences and communicating with others. In both cases, studies investigated the possibility that self-referential thought guides our social behavior. First, Paper 1 and 2 investigated how people come to understand other's thoughts and experiences by suggesting that people may use their own self-knowledge as a starting point for making inferences about others. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging and behavioral measures, these studies tested whether individuals make social inferences using the cognitive process of egocentric anchoring-and-adjustment, whereby individuals first anchor on self-knowledge, and then serially adjust away from these anchors in order to correct for differences between the self and other. Results provided evidence consistent with egocentric anchoring-and-adjustment: increases in self-other discrepancy corresponded to both increases in activity in the MPFC (Paper 1), a neural region associated with both self-referential thought and social cognition, as well as increases in response time (Paper 2), though only for targets where self-knowledge is particularly relevant. Paper 3 then investigated a prominent social behavior, self-disclosure--the act of sharing information about the self with others--which comprises 30- 40% of human conversation. Using both functional magnetic resonance imaging and behavioral economics methodology, five studies tested whether people communicate their thoughts and feelings to others because they are intrinsically motivated to do so. Results supported the hypothesis that individuals experience sharing their thoughts with others as subjectively rewarding: self-disclosure was associated with increased activation in brain regions that form the mesolimbic dopamine reward system; and individuals were willing to forgo money to self- disclose. Moreover, both the self and the disclosure aspects of self-disclosure independently contributed to its value. Together these Papers contribute to our understanding of the ways in which our internal world grounds elements of our external social acts.
Citable link to this page: http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:12274277
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