Friends and foes: Neural correlates of prosocial decisions with peers in adolescence

Elisabeth Schreuders*, Sanny Smeekens, Antonius H.N. Cillessen, Berna Güroğlu

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

Abstract

Adolescence is a critical period for social orientation to peers and for developing social skills in interactions with peers. In the current study we examined the neural correlates of prosocial decisions for friends and disliked peers, and their links with participants' friendship quality and empathy as indices of social competence. Participants’ friends and disliked peers were identified using sociometric nominations. Mid-adolescents (Mage = 14.6; N = 50) distributed coins between themselves and another player in a set of allocation games where they could make prosocial or selfish decisions for their friends and disliked peers, as well as for neutral and unfamiliar peers. Participants made the most prosocial decisions for friends and the least prosocial decisions for disliked peers. Prosocial decisions for friends yielded activity in the putamen and posterior middle temporal gyrus (pMTG) when compared to prosocial decisions for disliked peers, and in the superior parietal lobule (SPL) and precentral gyrus when compared to prosocial decisions for unfamiliar peers. Selfish decisions for friends and decisions for disliked peers did not result in heightened neural activity. Exploratory analyses of the associations between these neural activation patterns and measures of social competence revealed that putamen activity related negatively to negative friendship quality and that empathic personal distress related positively to SPL and precentral gyrus activity. Together, the findings illustrated that the SPL, precentral gyrus, pMTG, and putamen may be involved in promoting the continuation of friendships, and that social competence may modulate these neural mechanisms.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)153-163
JournalNeuropsychologia
Volume129
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2019

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Keywords

  • ASSOCIATIONS
  • Adolescence
  • BEHAVIOR
  • CAUDATE-NUCLEUS
  • CHILDRENS
  • EMPATHY
  • Friendships
  • INDIVIDUAL-DIFFERENCES
  • MEDIAL PREFRONTAL CORTEX
  • PRECENTRAL GYRUS
  • Peer relationships
  • Prosocial behavior
  • REWARD
  • STRIATUM
  • Social decision-making
  • fMRI

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