New paper on neural mechanisms underlying individual differences in control-averse behavior

Sarah Rudorf, Katrin Schmelz, Thomas Baumgartner, Roland Wiest, Urs Fischbacher, Daria Knoch

When another person tries to control one's decisions, some people might comply, but many will feel the urge to act against that control. This control aversion can lead to suboptimal decisions and it affects social interactions in many societal domains. To date, however, it has been unclear what drives individual differences in control-averse behavior. Here, we address this issue by measuring brain activity with fMRI while healthy female and male human participants make choices that are either free or controlled by another person, with real consequences to both interaction partners. In addition, we assessed the participants' affects, social cognitions and motivations via self-reports. Our results indicate that the social cognitions perceived distrust and lack of understanding for the other person play a key role in explaining control aversion at the behavioral level. At the neural level, we find that control-averse behavior can be explained by functional connectivity between the inferior parietal lobule and the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, brain regions commonly associated with attention reorientation and cognitive control. Further analyses reveal that the individual strength of functional connectivity complements and partially mediates the self-reported social cognitions in explaining individual differences in control-averse behavior. These findings therefore provide valuable contributions to a more comprehensive model of control aversion.

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