Neural Population Decoding Reveals the Intrinsic Positivity of the Self

Robert S. Chavez, Todd F. Heatherton, Dylan D. Wagner
2016 Cerebral Cortex  
People are motivated to hold favorable views of themselves, which manifests as a positivity bias when evaluating their own performance and abilities. However, it remains an open question whether positive affect is an essential component of people's self-concept. Prior functional neuroimaging research demonstrated that similar regions of the brain support positive affect and self-referential processing, although a direct test of their shared representation has yet to be examined. Here we use
more » ... tional magnetic resonance imaging in conjunction with multivariate pattern analysis in a cross-domain neural population decoding paradigm. We found that a multivariate pattern classifier model trained to dissociate neural responses to viewing positively and negatively valenced images can dissociate thinking about oneself from a close friend during a lexical trait-judgment task commonly used in the study of self-referential processing. Cross-domain classification accuracy was found to be highest in the ventral medial prefrontal cortex (vMPFC), a region previously implicated in both self-referential processing and positive affect. These results show that brain responses during self-referential processing can be decoded from multi-voxel activation patterns in the vMPFC when viewing positively valenced material, thereby providing evidence that positive affect may be a central component of the mental representation of the self.
doi:10.1093/cercor/bhw302 pmid:27664966 fatcat:r6fwsou7bjfvfpsxmvztzha57i