|Institution:||University of Oregon|
|Keywords:||disclosure; fmri; neuroimaging; reward; self; value|
|Full text PDF:||http://hdl.handle.net/1794/19656|
No neuroimaging investigation to date has considered the effects of social context on self-referential processing, despite the fact that the hypothesis that people engage different selves in different contexts has been with psychology for more than a century. To address this gap in the empirical record, a suite of three functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) experiments was conducted in order to assess patterns of neural activity associated with self-referential (compared to non-self-referential) processes (Experiment 1), computational models of reinforcement-learning processes (Experiment 2), and social context modulation of personally relevant cognition (Experiment 3). I demonstrate that distinct patterns of neural activity in cortical midline structures and the mesial ventral striatum are associated with thinking about the self privately, sharing information about the self with a parent, and sharing with a friend. These differentiated disclosure responses (Experiment 3) are evident at the whole brain level and in regions of interest defined by functional activity in independent tasks of self (Experiment 1) and reward (Experiment 2). In addition to providing empirical evidence for contextually differentiated self-representations in the brain, this dissertation validates the use of fMRI paradigms designed to functionally localize self-referential and reward-related activity either independently or in conjunction, as well as distinguish components of ventral striatal activity unique to each task. Finally, I consider strategies for approaching future investigations of self and social cognition in terms of reinforcement learning. Advisors/Committee Members: Pfeifer, Jennifer (advisor).