An fMRI pilot study: Altruistic Punishment in ingroup and outgroup membership


Altruistic punishment has a central role in cooperation among humans. People punish uncooperative individuals at a cost to themselves, inducing adherence to social norms. Little is known about altruistic punishment comparing ingroup and outgroup context. Using fMRI, we studied the behavior of altruistic punishment during the Third Party Punishment game. This game shows the behavior spending one’s own money, without any personal benefit, to punish unfair behavior of Player A who violate cooperation norms to Player B.This behavior may be differently displayed depending on the in-group (Player C and B same nationality) versus out-group (Player C and B different nationality) setting, in favor to one’s own group. This attitude is called parochial altruism. Preliminary results showed activation of anterior cingolate cortex involved in conflict between cognitive and emotional motivations in altruistic punishment. Data also show activation of anterior insula that reflects social norm violations during unfair ingroup condition.

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