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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2010 Jun 15;107(24):10827-32. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1003242107. Epub 2010 Jun 1.

Neural correlates of anchoring-and-adjustment during mentalizing.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA.


Recent studies have suggested that the medial prefrontal cortex (MPFC) contributes both to understanding the mental states of others and to introspecting about one's own mind. This finding has suggested that perceivers might use their own thoughts and feelings as a starting point for making inferences about others, consistent with "simulation" or "self-projection" views of social cognition. However, perceivers cannot simply assume that others think and feel exactly as they do; social cognition also must include processes that adjust for perceived differences between self and other. Recent cognitive work has suggested that such correction occurs through a process of "anchoring-and-adjustment" by which perceivers serially tune their inferences from an initial starting point based on their own introspections. Here, we used functional MRI to test two predictions derived from this anchoring-and-adjustment view. Participants (n = 64) used a Likert scale to judge the preferences of another person and to indicate their own preferences on the same items, allowing us to calculate the discrepancy between the participant's answers for self and other. Whole-brain parametric analyses identified a region in the MPFC in which activity was related linearly to this self-other discrepancy when inferring the mental states of others. These findings suggest both that the self serves as an important starting point from which to understand others and that perceivers customize such inferences by serially adjusting away from this anchor.

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