Dissociable medial prefrontal contributions to judgments of similar and dissimilar others

Neuron. 2006 May 18;50(4):655-63. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2006.03.040.


Human social interaction requires the recognition that other people are governed by the same types of mental states-beliefs, desires, intentions-that guide one's own behavior. We used functional neuroimaging to examine how perceivers make mental state inferences when such self-other overlap can be assumed (when the other is similar to oneself) and when it cannot (when the other is dissimilar from oneself). We observed a double dissociation such that mentalizing about a similar other engaged a region of ventral mPFC linked to self-referential thought, whereas mentalizing about a dissimilar other engaged a more dorsal subregion of mPFC. The overlap between judgments of self and similar others suggests the plausibility of "simulation" accounts of social cognition, which posit that perceivers can use knowledge about themselves to infer the mental states of others.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Brain Mapping*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Judgment / physiology*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Prefrontal Cortex / physiology*
  • Social Behavior*