Guilt, Cooperation Linked by Neural Network

Why People Choose to Cooperate Rather Than Act Selfishly

A team of researchers at the University of Arizona has brought a high-tech tool to bear on the study of a familiar and age-old emotion — guilt.

What makes the investigation unique is the use of fMRI scans to target the regions of the brain associated with guilt. It also opens a new avenue in understanding behavioral disorders associated with guilt, such as depression and anxiety.

The study is published by Cell Press in the journal Neuron.

The fMRI image above depicts areas of the brain associated with the competing motivations of minimizing guilt (yellow) and maximizing financial reward (blue) when participants decide whether or not they want to honor an investment partner’s trust. The motivation to minimize guilt is associated with the insula, anterior cingulate cortex and supplementary motor area (yellow). The motivation to maximize financial reward is associated with the ventral striatum, ventromedial prefrontal cortex and dorsomedial prefrontal cortex. (Credit: Image courtesy Luke Chang/UA psychology department)

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