This article is part of the Research Topic Decision Making under Uncertainty

Original Research ARTICLE

Front. Neurosci., 20 March 2013 | doi: 10.3389/fnins.2013.00015

Dissociable neural processes underlying risky decisions for self versus other

  • 1Laboratory of Social and Decision Neuroscience, Department of Brain and Cognitive Engineering, Korea University, Seoul, South Korea
  • 2Laboratory of Social and Decision Neuroscience, Wisdom Science Center, Korea University, Seoul, South Korea
  • 3Laboratory of Social and Decision Neuroscience, Department of Psychology, Korea University, Seoul, South Korea

Previous neuroimaging studies on decision making have mainly focused on decisions on behalf of oneself. Considering that people often make decisions on behalf of others, it is intriguing that there is little neurobiological evidence on how decisions for others differ from those for oneself. The present study directly compared risky decisions for self with those for another person using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). Participants were asked to perform a gambling task on behalf of themselves (decision-for-self condition) or another person (decision-for-other condition) while in the scanner. Their task was to choose between a low-risk option (i.e., win or lose 10 points) and a high-risk option (i.e., win or lose 90 points) with variable levels of winning probability. Compared with choices regarding others, those regarding oneself were more risk-averse at lower winning probabilities and more risk-seeking at higher winning probabilities, perhaps due to stronger affective process during risky decisions for oneself compared with those for other. The brain-activation pattern changed according to the target, such that reward-related regions were more active in the decision-for-self condition than in the decision-for-other condition, whereas brain regions related to the theory of mind (ToM) showed greater activation in the decision-for-other condition than in the decision-for-self condition. Parametric modulation analysis using individual decision models revealed that activation of the amygdala and the dorsomedial prefrontal cortex (DMPFC) were associated with value computations for oneself and for another, respectively, during risky financial decisions. The results of the present study suggest that decisions for oneself and for other may recruit fundamentally distinct neural processes, which can be mainly characterized as dominant affective/impulsive and cognitive/regulatory processes, respectively.

Keywords: fMRI, self–other decision, amygdala, dorsomedial prefrontal cortex, risky decision, prosocial behavior, social neuroscience

Citation: Jung D, Sul S and Kim H (2013) Dissociable neural processes underlying risky decisions for self versus other. Front. Neurosci. 7:15. doi: 10.3389/fnins.2013.00015

Received: 30 March 2012; Accepted: 28 January 2013;
Published online: 20 March 2013.

Edited by:

Ming Hsu, University of California, USA

Reviewed by:

Mathieu D’Acremont, California Institute of Technology, USA
Songfa Zhong, National University of Singapore, Singapore

Copyright: © 2013 Jung, Sul and Kim. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in other forums, provided the original authors and source are credited and subject to any copyright notices concerning any third-party graphics etc.

*Correspondence: Hackjin Kim, Department of Psychology, Korea University, 145 Anam-ro, Seongbuk-gu, Seoul 136-701, South Korea. e-mail:

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