Hideyuki Takahashi, Kazunori Terada, Tomoyo Morita, Shinsuke Suzuki, Tomoki Haji, Hideki Kojima, Masahiro Yoshikawa, Yoshio Matsumoto, Takashi Omori, Minoru Asada, Eiichi Naito
Cortex (in press)
Internal (neuronal) representations in the brain are modified by our experiences, and this phenomenon is not unique to sensory and motor systems. Here, we show that different impressions obtained through social interaction with a variety of agents uniquely modulate activity of dorsal and ventral pathways of the brain network that mediates human social behavior.
We scanned brain activity with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) in 16 healthy volunteers when they performed a simple matching-pennies game with a human, human-like android, mechanical robot, interactive robot, and a computer. Before playing this game in the scanner, participants experienced social interactions with each opponent separately and scored their initial impressions using two questionnaires.
We found that the participants perceived opponents in two mental dimensions: one represented “mind-holderness” in which participants attributed anthropomorphic impressions to some of the opponents that had mental functions, while the other dimension represented “mind-readerness” in which participants characterized opponents as intelligent. Interestingly, this “mind-readerness” dimension correlated to participants frequently changing their game tactic to prevent opponents from envisioning their strategy, and this was corroborated by increased entropy during the game. We also found that the two factors separately modulated activity in distinct social brain regions. Specifically, mind-holderness modulated activity in the dorsal aspect of the temporoparietal junction (TPJ) and medial prefrontal and posterior paracingulate cortices, while mind-readerness modulated activity in the ventral aspect of TPJ and the temporal pole.
These results clearly demonstrate that activity in social brain networks is modulated through pre-scanning experiences of social interaction with a variety of agents. Furthermore, our findings elucidated the existence of two distinct functional networks in the social human brain. Social interaction with anthropomorphic or intelligent-looking agents may distinctly shape the internal representation of our social brain, which may in turn determine how we behave for various agents that we encounter in our society.