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WIREs Cogn Sci
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The social brain and reward: social information processing in the human striatum

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In the highly social life of humans, rewards that are sought and experienced are intertwined with social relationships and interactions between people. Just as we value nonsocial rewards such as food or money, we also value social outcomes (e.g., praise from a superior). We use social information to evaluate and form expectations of others and to make decisions involving others. Here we review research demonstrating how the neural circuitry of reward, particularly the striatum, is also involved in processing social information and making decisions in social situations. This research provides an understanding of the neural basis for social behavior from the perspective of how we evaluate social experiences and how our social interactions and decisions are motivated. We review research addressing the common neural systems underlying evaluation of social and nonsocial rewards. The human striatum, known to play a key role in reward processing, displays signals related to a broad spectrum of social functioning, including evaluating social rewards, making decisions influenced by social factors, learning about social others, cooperating, competing, and following social norms. WIREs Cogn Sci 2014, 5:61–73. doi: 10.1002/wcs.1266

Conflict of interest: The authors have declared no conflicts of interest for this article.

The striatum. Ventromedial areas are colored green and dorsolateral areas are colored blue in the coronal view.
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Striatum response to monetary rewards is modulated by the social context. (a) In a card guessing task, participants are more excited to receive monetary rewards when they are shared with a friend compared to a stranger or computer. (b) Striatum activity increases for monetary gains compared to losses. (c) Striatum activity (from region circled in part b) to monetary gains is greater when sharing the rewards with a friend. (Reprinted with permission from Ref . Copyright 2012 Society for Neuroscience)
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