Reflected glory and failure: the role of the medial prefrontal cortex and ventral striatum in self vs other relevance during advice-giving outcomes

Soc Cogn Affect Neurosci. 2015 Oct;10(10):1323-8. doi: 10.1093/scan/nsv020. Epub 2015 Feb 19.


Despite the risks, people enjoy giving advice. One explanation is that giving beneficial advice can result in reflected glory, ego boosts or reputation enhancement. However, giving poor advice can be socially harmful (being perceived as incompetent or untrustworthy). In both circumstances, we have a vested interest in the advice follower's success or failure, especially when it reflects specifically on us compared with when it is diffused between multiple advisors. We examined these dynamics using an Advisor-Advisee Game, where subjects acted as an Advisor to a confederate Advisee who selected one of the three options when trying to win money: accept the subject's advice, accept the advice of a second confederate Advisor or accept both Advisors' advice. Results showed that having one's advice accepted, compared with being rejected, resulted in activity in the ventral striatum--a core reward area. Furthermore, the ventral striatum was only active when the subject's advice led to the advisee winning, and not when the advisee won based on the confederate's advice. Finally, the medial prefrontal cortex (MPFC) was more active when the Advisee won or lost money based solely on the subject's advice compared with when the second Advisor's advice was accepted. One explanation for these findings is that the MPFC monitors self-relevant social information, while the ventral striatum is active when others accept advice and when their success leads to reflected glory.

Keywords: advice giving; medial prefrontal cortex; reflected glory; reward; self-relevance.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Prefrontal Cortex / physiology*
  • Reward*
  • Social Perception*
  • Ventral Striatum / physiology*