Abstract

We cannot see the minds of others, yet people often spontaneously interpret how they are viewed by other people (i.e., meta-perceptions) and often in a self-flattering manner. Very little is known about the neural associations of meta-perceptions, but a likely candidate is the ventromedial pFC (VMPFC). VMPFC has been associated with both self- and other-perception as well as motivated self-perception. Does this function extend to meta-perceptions? The current study examined neural activity while participants made meta-perceptive interpretations in various social scenarios. A drift-diffusion model was used to test whether the VMPFC is associated with two processes involved in interpreting meta-perceptions in a self-flattering manner: the extent to which the interpretation process involves the preferential accumulation of evidence in favor of a self-flattering interpretation versus the extent to which the interpretation process begins with an expectation that favors a self-flattering outcome. Increased VMPFC activity was associated with the extent to which people preferentially accumulate information when interpreting meta-perceptions under ambiguous conditions and marginally associated with self-flattering meta-perceptions. Together, the present findings illuminate the neural underpinnings of a social cognitive process that has received little attention to date: how we make meaning of others' minds when we think those minds are pointed at us.

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