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Contribution Details

Type Journal Article
Scope Discipline-based scholarship
Title Neurocomputational evidence that conflicting prosocial motives guide distributive justice
Organization Unit
  • Yue Li
  • Jie Hu
  • Christian Ruff
  • Xiaolin Zhou
Item Subtype Original Work
Refereed Yes
Status Published in final form
  • English
Journal Title Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Publisher National Academy of Sciences
Geographical Reach international
ISSN 0027-8424
Volume 119
Number 49
Page Range e2209078119
Date 2022
Abstract Text In the history of humanity, most conflicts within and between societies have originated from perceived inequality in resource distribution. How humans achieve and maintain distributive justice has therefore been an intensely studied issue. However, most research on the corresponding psychological processes has focused on inequality aversion and has been largely agnostic of other motives that may either align or oppose this behavioral tendency. Here we provide behavioral, computational, and neuroimaging evidence that distribution decisions are guided by three distinct motives—inequality aversion, harm aversion, and rank reversal aversion—that interact with each other and can also deter individuals from pursuing equality. At the neural level, we show that these three motives are encoded by separate neural systems, compete for representation in various brain areas processing equality and harm signals, and are integrated in the striatum, which functions as a crucial hub for translating the motives to behavior. Our findings provide a comprehensive framework for understanding the cognitive and biological processes by which multiple prosocial motives are coordinated in the brain to guide redistribution behaviors. This framework enhances our understanding of the brain mechanisms underlying equality-related behavior, suggests possible neural origins of individual differences in social preferences, and provides a new pathway to understand the cognitive and neural basis of clinical disorders with impaired social functions.
Free access at DOI
Digital Object Identifier 10.1073/pnas.2209078119
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Keywords Multidisciplinary, striatum, frontostriatal circuitry, decision-making, distributive justice, prosocial motives