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Meta-Analysis
. 2018 Jan;39(1):440-458.
doi: 10.1002/hbm.23854. Epub 2017 Oct 24.

Social Comparison in the Brain: A Coordinate-Based Meta-Analysis of Functional Brain Imaging Studies on the Downward and Upward Comparisons

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Meta-Analysis

Social Comparison in the Brain: A Coordinate-Based Meta-Analysis of Functional Brain Imaging Studies on the Downward and Upward Comparisons

Yi Luo et al. Hum Brain Mapp. .

Abstract

Social comparison is ubiquitous across human societies with dramatic influence on people's well-being and decision making. Downward comparison (comparing to worse-off others) and upward comparison (comparing to better-off others) constitute two types of social comparisons that produce different neuropsychological consequences. Based on studies exploring neural signatures associated with downward and upward comparisons, the current study utilized a coordinate-based meta-analysis to provide a refinement of understanding about the underlying neural architecture of social comparison. We identified consistent involvement of the ventral striatum and ventromedial prefrontal cortex in downward comparison and consistent involvement of the anterior insula and dorsal anterior cingulate cortex in upward comparison. These findings fit well with the "common-currency" hypothesis that neural representations of social gain or loss resemble those for non-social reward or loss processing. Accordingly, we discussed our findings in the framework of general reinforcement learning (RL) hypothesis, arguing how social gain/loss induced by social comparisons could be encoded by the brain as a domain-general signal (i.e., prediction errors) serving to adjust people's decisions in social settings. Although the RL account may serve as a heuristic framework for the future research, other plausible accounts on the neuropsychological mechanism of social comparison were also acknowledged. Hum Brain Mapp 39:440-458, 2018. © 2017 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

Keywords: activation likelihood estimation (ALE); common-currency hypothesis; meta-analysis; reinforcement learning; social comparison.

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