A Key Role for Similarity in Vicarious Reward

Dean Mobbs*, Rongjun Yu, Marcel Meyer, Luca Passamonti, Ben Seymour, Andrew J. Calder, Susanne Schweizer, Chris D. Frith, Tim Dalgleish

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

224 Citations (Scopus)


Humans appear to have an inherent prosocial tendency toward one another in that we often take pleasure in seeing others succeed. This fact is almost certainly exploited by game shows, yet why watching others win elicits a pleasurable vicarious rewarding feeling in the absence of personal economic gain is unclear. One explanation is that game shows use contestants who have similarities to the viewing population, thereby kindling kin-motivated responses (for example, prosocial behavior). Using a game show–inspired paradigm, we show that the interactions between the ventral striatum and anterior cingulate cortex subserve the modulation of vicarious reward by similarity, respectively. Our results support studies showing that similarity acts as a proximate neurobiological mechanism where prosocial behavior extends to unrelated strangers.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)900
Number of pages1
Issue number5929
Publication statusPublished - 15 May 2009


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