Anterior medial prefrontal cortex implements social priming of mimicry

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Abstract

The neural and cognitive mechanisms by which primed constructs can impact on social behavior are poorly understood. In the present study, we used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to explore how scrambled sentence priming can impact on mimicry behavior. Sentences involving pro/antisocial events from a first/third-person point of view were presented in short blocks, followed by a reaction-time assessment of mimicry. Behavioral results showed that both prosociality and viewpoint impact on mimicry, and fMRI analysis showed this effect is implemented by anterior medial prefrontal cortex (amPFC). We suggest that social primes may subtly modulate processing in amPFC in a manner linked to the later behavior, and that this same region also implements the top-down control of mimicry responses. This priming may be linked to processing of self-schemas in amPFC. Our findings demonstrate how social priming can be studied with fMRI, and have important implications for our understanding of the underlying mechanisms of prime-to-behavior effects as well as for current theories in social psychology.

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