Social perspective-taking shapes brain hemodynamic activity and eye movements during movie viewing

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Putting oneself into the shoes of others is an important aspect of social cognition. We measured brain hemodynamic activity and eye-gaze patterns while participants were viewing a shortened version of the movie ‘My Sister's Keeper’ from two perspectives: that of a potential organ donor, who violates moral norms by refusing to donate her kidney, and that of a potential organ recipient, who suffers in pain. Inter-subject correlation (ISC) of brain activity was significantly higher during the potential organ donor's perspective in dorsolateral and inferior prefrontal, lateral and inferior occipital, and inferior-anterior temporal areas. In the reverse contrast, stronger ISC was observed in superior temporal, posterior frontal and anterior parietal areas. Eye-gaze analysis showed higher proportion of fixations on the potential organ recipient during both perspectives. Taken together, these results suggest that during social perspective-taking different brain areas can be flexibly recruited depending on the nature of the perspective that is taken.

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