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. Jul-Aug 2009;80(4):1016-38.
doi: 10.1111/j.1467-8624.2009.01314.x.

Neural Correlates of Direct and Reflected Self-Appraisals in Adolescents and Adults: When Social Perspective-Taking Informs Self-Perception

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Free PMC article

Neural Correlates of Direct and Reflected Self-Appraisals in Adolescents and Adults: When Social Perspective-Taking Informs Self-Perception

Jennifer H Pfeifer et al. Child Dev. .
Free PMC article

Abstract

Classic theories of self-development suggest people define themselves in part through internalized perceptions of other people's beliefs about them, known as reflected self-appraisals. This study uses functional magnetic resonance imaging to compare the neural correlates of direct and reflected self-appraisals in adolescence (N = 12, ages 11-14 years) and adulthood (N = 12, ages 23-30 years). During direct self-reflection, adolescents demonstrated greater activity than adults in networks relevant to self-perception (medial prefrontal and parietal cortices) and social-cognition (dorsomedial prefrontal cortex, temporal-parietal junction, and posterior superior temporal sulcus), suggesting adolescent self-construals may rely more heavily on others' perspectives about the self. Activity in the medial fronto-parietal network was also enhanced when adolescents took the perspective of someone more relevant to a given domain.

Figures

Figure 1
Figure 1
Task design. For each task block, participants heard a set of instructions reminding them whose perspective they were to take on themselves, followed by a series of 10 phrases. These stimuli included both positive and negative items (intermixed within blocks).
Figure 2
Figure 2
Full crossover interaction between appraisal source (direct or reflected) and age (adolescent or adult). Panel A illustrates activity in medial and dorsomedial prefrontal cortex (MPFC and DMPFC) and anterior cingulate cortex that was relatively greater in the crossover interaction capturing regions that were differentially active during direct and reflected self-appraisals in children versus adults. Panel B depicts mean activity in MPFC and DMPFC, demonstrating that these regions were generally more active in direct than reflected appraisals in adolescents, and vice versa in adults to a lesser extent.
Figure 3
Figure 3
Regions commonly activated by all conditions except direct self-appraisals in adults. Panel A illustrates activity in medial posterior parietal cortex (MPPC) and left temporal–parietal junction (L TPJ) that was relatively greater in the interaction identifying regions that were active during all appraisal conditions except direct self-appraisals in adults. Panel B depicts mean activity in these two regions, demonstrating that these regions were indeed more active in all appraisals in adolescents and reflected self-appraisals in adults, when compared with direct self-appraisals in adults.
Figure 4
Figure 4
Regions more active during direct self-appraisals in adolescents than in adults. Medial and dorsomedial prefrontal cortex, posterior superior temporal sulcus, left temporal–parietal junction, and anterior cingulate cortex were all more active during direct self-appraisals in adolescents than in adults.
Figure 5
Figure 5
Comparison of all appraisal conditions and rest in adults. Images depict activation in adults during direct self-appraisals (You) and reflected self-appraisals from three perspectives—mother (Mom), best friend (Best), and classmates (Class)—in comparison to a resting baseline. Medial prefrontal cortex, medial posterior parietal cortex, and left temporal–parietal junction are encircled.
Figure 6
Figure 6
Comparison of all appraisal conditions and rest in adolescents. Images depict activation in adolescents during direct self-appraisals (You) and reflected self-appraisals from three perspectives—mother (Mom), best friend (Best), and classmates (Class)—in comparison to a resting baseline. Medial prefrontal cortex, medial posterior parietal cortex, and left temporal–parietal junction are encircled.
Figure 7
Figure 7
Interaction between reflected self-appraisal source (Mom or Best Friend) and self-concept domain academic or social). Mean activity in medial prefrontal cortex (MPFC) and medial posterior parietal cortex (MPPC) during reflected self-appraisals from the perspective of adolescents’ mothers and best friends, depicted separately by academic and social domain, illustrates that activity in these regions is relatively enhanced when the domain matches the evaluative source’s sphere of influence but does not significantly differ from baseline when taking the source’s perspective on the self in a nonmatched domain.

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