The ability to accurately estimate another person's preferences is crucial for a successful social life. In daily interactions, we often do this on the basis of minimal information. The aims of the present study were (a) to examine whether people can accurately judge others based only on a brief exposure to their appearances, and (b) to reveal the underlying neural mechanisms with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). Participants were asked to make guesses about unfamiliar target individuals' preferences for various items after looking at their faces for 3 s. The behavioral results showed that participants estimated others' preferences above chance level. The fMRI data revealed that higher accuracy in preference estimation was associated with greater activity in the dorsomedial prefrontal cortex (DMPFC) when participants were guessing the targets' preferences relative to thinking about their own preferences. These findings suggest that accurate estimations of others' preferences may require increased activity in the DMPFC. A functional connectivity analysis revealed that higher accuracy in preference estimation was related to increased functional connectivity between the DMPFC and the brain regions that are known to be involved in theory of mind processing, such as the temporoparietal junction (TPJ) and the posterior cingulate cortex (PCC)/precuneus, during correct vs. incorrect guessing trials. On the contrary, the tendency to refer to self-preferences when estimating others' preference was related to greater activity in the ventromedial prefrontal cortex. These findings imply that the DMPFC may be a core region in estimating the preferences of others and that higher accuracy may require stronger communication between the DMPFC and the TPJ and PCC/precuneus, part of a neural network known to be engaged in mentalizing.
Keywords: preference estimation, dorsomedial prefrontal cortex, temporoparietal junction, posterior cingulate cortex/precuneus, thin-slice judgment, theory of mind
Citation: Kang P, Lee J, Sul S and Kim H (2013) Dorsomedial prefrontal cortex activity predicts the accuracy in estimating others' preferences. Front. Hum. Neurosci. 7:686. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2013.00686
Received: 01 May 2013; Accepted: 29 October 2013;
Published online: 26 November 2013.
Edited by:Corrado Corradi-Dell'Acqua, University of Geneva, Switzerland
Reviewed by:Nicholas O. Rule, University of Toronto, Canada
Copyright © 2013 Kang, Lee, Sul and Kim. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) or licensor are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.
*Correspondence: Hackjin Kim, Department of Psychology, Korea University, 145 Anam-ro, Sungbuk-Ku, Seoul 136-701, South Korea e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
†These authors have contributed equally to this work.