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Poster D44, Thursday, November 9, 6:15 – 7:30 pm, Harborview and Loch Raven Ballrooms

Neural Mechanisms Underlying Social Criticism and Praise

Shan Gao1,2, Ting Gou1;1School of Foreign Languages, University of Electronic Science and Technology of China, Chengdu, China, 2Key Laboratory for NeuroInformation of Ministry of Education, University of Electronic Science and Technology of China, Chengdu, China

Semantic orientation is the evaluative character of language expressions. Verbal communication with different semantic orientation has a considerable impact on the extent to which social relations are facilitated or undermined. Semantic orientation varies in valence (positive or negative), leading to praise and criticism in social interaction and corresponding emotional reactions. Here using functional magnetic resonance imaging, we investigated how the brain acts in response to social praise and criticism. We engaged men and women in associating male and female neutral faces with descriptives of praising or criticizing behaviours targeting others or objects. The whole brain analysis revealed that while both praise and criticism significantly activated the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) and bilateral amygdala the activation in the left mPFC was stronger in response to criticism as compared to praise, which was driven by activation differences in this region between criticism and praise targeting others but not objects. Comments on others relative to objects enhanced the activity in the left mPFC and left posterior cingulate cortex (PCC) such that both praise and criticism of others produced stronger activation in the left PCC than their objects-targeted counterparts whereas the left mPFC showed greater activity only in the contrast of criticism targeting others vs. objects. These main and interactive effects of valence (praise or criticism) and target (others or objects) subsequently led to altered likeability for the faces. And they were not modulated by subject or face sex. Taken together, our findings suggest the fundamental roles of the mPFC and PCC in processing social praise and criticism, verbal cues with different semantic orientation, which may trigger avoidance or approach in social interaction.

Topic Area: Meaning: Prosody, Social and Emotional Processes

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