Friend versus foe: Neural correlates of prosocial decisions for liked and disliked peers

Elisabeth Schreuders*, Eduard T. Klapwijk, Geert-Jan Will, Berna Guroglu

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

40 Citations (Scopus)
69 Downloads (Pure)


Although the majority of our social interactions are with people we know, few studies have investigated the neural correlates of sharing valuable resources with familiar others. Using an ecologically valid research paradigm, this functional magnetic resonance imaging study examined the neural correlates of prosocial and selfish behavior in interactions with real-life friends and disliked peers in young adults. Participants (N = 27) distributed coins between themselves and another person, where they could make selfish choices that maximized their own gains or prosocial choices that maximized outcomes of the other. Participants were more prosocial toward friends and more selfish toward disliked peers. Individual prosociality levels toward friends were associated negatively with supplementary motor area and anterior insula activity. Further preliminary analyses showed that prosocial decisions involving friends were associated with heightened activity in the bilateral posterior temporoparietal junction, and selfish decisions involving disliked peers were associated with heightened superior temporal sulcus activity, which are brain regions consistently shown to be involved in mentalizing and perspective taking in prior studies. Further, activation of the putamen was observed during prosocial choices involving friends and selfish choices involving disliked peers. These findings provide insights into the modulation of neural processes that underlie prosocial behavior as a function of a positive or negative relationship with the interaction partner.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)127-142
JournalCognitive, Affective and Behavioral Neuroscience
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2018


  • Peer relationships
  • Social decision-making
  • fMRI
  • Prosocial behavior
  • Dictator game


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