Changing brains, changing perspectives: the neurocognitive development of reciprocity

Psychol Sci. 2011 Jan;22(1):60-70. doi: 10.1177/0956797610391102. Epub 2010 Dec 16.


Adolescence is characterized by the emergence of advanced forms of social perspective taking and significant changes in social behavior. Yet little is known about how changes in social cognition are related to changes in brain function during adolescence. In this study, we investigated the neural correlates of social behavior during three phases of adolescence, carrying out functional magnetic resonance imaging of participants' brains while they were Player 2 in the Trust Game. We found that with age, adolescents were increasingly sensitive to the perspective of the other player, as indicated by their reciprocal behavior. These advanced forms of social perspective-taking behavior were associated with increased involvement of the left temporo-parietal junction and the right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex. In contrast, young adolescents showed more activity in the anterior medial prefrontal cortex, a region previously associated with self-oriented processing and mentalizing. These findings suggest that the asynchronous development of these neural systems may underlie the shift from thinking about self to thinking about the other.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Behavior / physiology
  • Adolescent Behavior / psychology
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Brain Mapping / methods
  • Child
  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted / methods
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods
  • Male
  • Reference Values
  • Social Behavior*
  • Trust / psychology
  • Young Adult