Common and distinct neural correlates of self-serving and prosocial dishonesty

Narun Pornpattananangkul*, Shanshan Zhen, Rongjun Yu*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

    20 Citations (Scopus)


    People often anticipate certain benefits when making dishonest decisions. In this article, we aim to dissociate the neural–cognitive processes of (1) dishonest decisions that focus on overall benefits of being dishonest (regardless of whether the benefits are self-serving or prosocial) from (2) those that distinguish between self-serving and prosocial benefits. Thirty-one participants had the opportunity to maximize their monetary benefits by voluntarily making dishonest decisions while undergoing functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). In each trial, the monetary benefit of being dishonest was either self-serving or prosocial. Behaviorally, we found dissociable patterns of dishonest decisions: some participants were dishonest for overall benefits, while others were primarily dishonest for self-serving (compared with prosocial) benefits. When provided an opportunity to be dishonest for either self-serving or prosocial benefits, participants with a stronger overall tendency to be dishonest had stronger vmPFC activity, as well as stronger functional connectivity between the vmPFC and dlPFC. Furthermore, vmPFC activity was associated with decisions to be dishonest both when the benefits of being dishonest were self-serving and prosocial. Conversely, high self-serving-biased participants had stronger striatum activity and stronger functional connectivity between the striatum and middle-mPFC when they had a chance to be dishonest for self-serving (compared with prosocial) benefits. Altogether, we showed that activity in (and functional connectivity between) regions in the valuation (e.g., vmPFC and Str) and executive control (e.g., dlPFC and mmPFC) systems play a key role in registering the social-related goal of dishonest decisions.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)3086-3103
    Number of pages18
    JournalHuman Brain Mapping
    Issue number7
    Early online date26 Mar 2018
    Publication statusPublished - Jul 2018

    Scopus Subject Areas

    • Anatomy
    • Radiological and Ultrasound Technology
    • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
    • Neurology
    • Clinical Neurology

    User-Defined Keywords

    • deception
    • dishonest decision making
    • executive control
    • prosocial
    • self-serving


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