Dominic S. Fareri, Michael A. Niznikiewicz, Victoria K. Lee, and Mauricio R. Delgado
J. Neurosci. 2012;32 9045-9052
Everyday goals and experiences are often shared with others who may hold different places within our social networks. We investigated whether the experience of sharing a reward differs with respect to social network. Twenty human participants played a card guessing game for shared monetary outcomes with three partners: a computer, a confederate (out of network), and a friend (in network). Participants subjectively rated the experience of sharing a reward more positively with their friends than the other partners. Neuroimaging results support participants' subjective reports, as ventral striatal BOLD responses were more robust when sharing monetary gains with a friend as compared to the confederate or computer, suggesting a higher value for sharing with an in-network partner. Interestingly, ratings of social closeness covaried with this activity, resulting in a significant partner × closeness interaction; exploratory analysis showed that only participants reporting higher levels of closeness demonstrated partner-related differences in striatal BOLD response. These results suggest that reward valuation in social contexts is sensitive to distinctions of social network, such that sharing positive experiences with in-network others may carry higher value.