Saturday, May 28, 2011

Are you a Dove or a Hawk?

I came across an article that relates to chapter one and further explored motivation. Motivation is driven by internal and external sources in order to approach positive incentives and avoid negative incentives. These sources of motivation determine behavior on the conscious and unconscious level. To investigate decision making on the neural level regarding social dilemmas Emonds et al. conducted an fMRI study comparing brain activity of proself and prosocial individuals. It is thought that proselfs compared to prosocials are motivated differently. After screening for medical health, they were also tested on their Social Value Orientation (SVO). The SVO referrers to how people evaluate interdependent outcomes for self and others. It is important for determining cooperative motives, strategies, and choice behavior. Previous research has indicated that prosocial people are intrinsically (internally) willing to cooperate in social dilemma, as long as their partners cooperate. This type of social orientation can be considered as the “dove strategy,” unlike proself orientations that rely on the “hawk strategy.” Proself minds are individualistic, or hold competitive personality looking to outperform others and reap the benefits for themselves.

The focus of this study was to examine and further understand how cooperative decisions are particularly made under uncertainty with the influence of intrinsic and extrinsic motivators in social dilemmas. Researchers hypothesized activation to be different for the two types of SVO groups while playing a coordination game (CG), combined with prisoners dilemma game (PD). The PD is an economic game with weak cooperative incentives, with motivators of fear and greed. The CG holds strong cooperative incentives while yielding uncertain outcomes (motives of fear and greed are not present). The two games are blinded to participants and explained as an “investment game” leaving the players the options to invest (cooperate) or not (defect).

Results after a whole brain analysis revealed activation patterns to be different. Proselfs showed activity in the Dorsolateral Prefrontal Cortex (DLPFC), the area that engages in tasks requiring increased cognitive control and working memory. Unpredicted but understandable finding of activation for proselfs was seen in the posterior superior-temporal sulcus (STS); the region involved in perspective taking that could provoke original moral judgment and then include executive resources in to the process. This is understandable because being able to comprehend another’s point of view will work to proselfs advantage. Another area that activated was the precuneus, which contributes to a variety of higher order cognitive functions relating to processing self relevant information.

Prosocials showed more activation in the temporo-parietal junction but specifically in the anterior STS, which is involved with previously resolved routine moral judgment that requires semantic based knowledge. Also in the Inferior Parietal Lobule (IPL – the region of moral awareness), and lateral orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) the region associated with subjective representation of punishment, as well as norm compliance.

Implying, proself individuals are motivated by extrinsic incentives doing so by strategizing, and calculating the maximum pay off for each game. Prosocials are norm compliant and approach each game with moral consideration of the outcome of others showing intrinsic motivation. These findings are valuable to the field of motivation psychology, because this brain activity is an automatic, internalized process that becomes expressed during decision making in social interactions, suggesting people have opposing social motives.


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