The Functional Architecture of the Brain Underlies Strategic Deception in Impression Management

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Impression management, as one of the most essential skills of social function, impacts one’s survival and success in human societies. However, the neural architecture underpinning this social skill remains poorly understood. By employing a two-person bargaining game, we exposed three strategies involving distinct cognitive processes for social impression management with different levels of strategic deception. We utilized a novel adaptation of Granger causality accounting for signal-dependent noise (SDN), which captured the directional connectivity underlying the impression management during the bargaining game. We found that the sophisticated strategists engaged stronger directional connectivity from both dorsal anterior cingulate cortex and retrosplenial cortex to rostral prefrontal cortex, and the strengths of these directional influences were associated with higher level of deception during the game. Using the directional connectivity as a neural signature, we identified the strategic deception with 80% accuracy by a machine-learning classifier. These results suggest that different social strategies are supported by distinct patterns of directional connectivity among key brain regions for social cognition.



impression management, economic games, signal-dependent noise, directional connectivity, support vector machine