The neuroscience of social decision-making

Annu Rev Psychol. 2011;62:23-48. doi: 10.1146/annurev.psych.121208.131647.

Abstract

Given that we live in highly complex social environments, many of our most important decisions are made in the context of social interactions. Simple but sophisticated tasks from a branch of experimental economics known as game theory have been used to study social decision-making in the laboratory setting, and a variety of neuroscience methods have been used to probe the underlying neural systems. This approach is informing our knowledge of the neural mechanisms that support decisions about trust, reciprocity, altruism, fairness, revenge, social punishment, social norm conformity, social learning, and competition. Neural systems involved in reward and reinforcement, pain and punishment, mentalizing, delaying gratification, and emotion regulation are commonly recruited for social decisions. This review also highlights the role of the prefrontal cortex in prudent social decision-making, at least when social environments are relatively stable. In addition, recent progress has been made in understanding the neural bases of individual variation in social decision-making.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Decision Making / physiology*
  • Emotions
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations*
  • Prefrontal Cortex / physiology*
  • Social Behavior*
  • Trust