Neural signatures of strategic types in a two-person bargaining game

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The management and manipulation of our own social image in the minds of others requires difficult and poorly understood computations. One computation useful in social image management is strategic deception: our ability and willingness to manipulate other people’s beliefs about ourselves for gain. We used an interpersonal bargaining game to probe the capacity of players to manage their partner’s beliefs about them. This probe parsed the group of subjects into three behavioral types according to their revealed level of strategic deception; these types were also distinguished by neural data measured during the game. The most deceptive subjects emitted behavioral signals that mimicked a more benign behavioral type, and their brains showed differential activation in right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and left Brodmann area 10 at the time of this deception. In addition, strategic types showed a significant correlation between activation in the right temporoparietal junction and expected payoff that was absent in the other groups. The neurobehavioral types identified by the game raise the possibility of identifying quantitative biomarkers for the capacity to manipulate and maintain a social image in another person’s mind.

decision making, individual differences, neuroeconomics