Disrupting the Prefrontal Cortex Diminishes the Human Ability to Build a Good Reputation

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS), Vol. 106(49), pp. 20895-20899, 2009

23 Pages Posted: 23 Aug 2012

See all articles by daria knoch

daria knoch

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Frédéric Schneider

University of Cambridge - Judge Business School

Daniel Schunk

Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz - Gutenberg School of Economics and Management; University of Zurich - Department of Economics

Martin Hohmann

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Ernst Fehr

University of Zurich - Department of Economics

Date Written: August 1, 2009

Abstract

Reputation formation pervades human social life. In fact, many people go to great lengths to acquire a good reputation, even though building a good reputation is costly in many cases. Little is known about the neural underpinnings of this important social mechanism, however. In the present study, we show that disruption of the right, but not the left, lateral prefrontal cortex (PFC) with low-frequency repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) diminishes subjects' ability to build a favorable reputation. This effect occurs even though subjects' ability to behave altruistically in the absence of reputation incentives remains intact, and even though they are still able to recognize both the fairness standards necessary for acquiring and the future benefits of a good reputation. Thus, subjects with a disrupted right lateral PFC no longer seem to be able to resist the temptation to defect, even though they know that this has detrimental effects on their future reputation. This suggests an important dissociation between the knowledge about one's own best interests and the ability to act accordingly in social contexts. These results link findings on the neural underpinnings of self-control and temptation with the study of human social behavior, and they may help explain why reputation formation remains less prominent in most other species with less developed prefrontal cortices.

Keywords: Trust Game, Reputation Concerns

Suggested Citation

knoch, daria and Schneider, Frédéric and Schunk, Daniel and Hohmann, Martin and Fehr, Ernst, Disrupting the Prefrontal Cortex Diminishes the Human Ability to Build a Good Reputation (August 1, 2009). Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS), Vol. 106(49), pp. 20895-20899, 2009. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2134922

Daria Knoch

affiliation not provided to SSRN ( email )

Frédéric Schneider (Contact Author)

University of Cambridge - Judge Business School ( email )

Trumpington Street
Cambridge, CB2 1AG
United Kingdom

Daniel Schunk

Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz - Gutenberg School of Economics and Management ( email )

Mainz
Germany

University of Zurich - Department of Economics ( email )

Bluemlisalpstr. 10
Zurich, 8006
Switzerland

Martin Hohmann

affiliation not provided to SSRN ( email )

Ernst Fehr

University of Zurich - Department of Economics ( email )

Blümlisalpstrasse 10
Zuerich, 8006
Switzerland
+41 1 634 3709 (Phone)
+41 1 634 4907 (Fax)

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