The neural bases of cooperation and competition: an fMRI investigation.

Publication Type:

Journal Article


Neuroimage, Volume 23, Issue 2, p.744-51 (2004)


Adult, Brain, Competitive Behavior, Cooperative Behavior, Female, Functional Laterality, Humans, Image Processing, Computer-Assisted, Magnetic Resonance Imaging, Male


<p>Cooperation and competition are two basic modes of social cognition that necessitate monitoring of both one's own and others' actions, as well as adopting a specific mental set. In this fMRI, study individuals played a specially designed computer game, according to a set of predefined rules, either in cooperation with or in competition against another person. The hemodynamic response during these conditions was contrasted to that of the same subjects playing the game independently. Both cooperation and competition stances resulted in activation of a common frontoparietal network subserving executive functions, as well as the anterior insula, involved in autonomic arousal. Moreover, distinct regions were found to be selectively associated with cooperation and competition, notably the orbitofrontal cortex in the former and the inferior parietal and medial prefrontal cortices in the latter. This pattern reflects the different mental frameworks implicated in being cooperative versus competitive with another person. In accordance with evidence from evolutionary psychology as well as from developmental psychology, we argue that cooperation is a socially rewarding process and is associated with specific left medial orbitofrontal cortex involvement.</p>

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