Social signals play powerful roles in shaping self-oriented reward valuation and decision making. These signals activate social and valuation/decision areas, but the core computation for their integration into the self-oriented decision machinery remains unclear. Here, we study how a fundamental social signal, social value (others’ reward value), is converted into self-oriented decision making in the human brain. Using behavioral analysis, modeling, and neuroimaging, we show three-stage processing of social value conversion from the offer to the effective value and then to the final decision value. First, a value of others’ bonus on offer, called offered value, was encoded uniquely in the right temporoparietal junction (rTPJ) and also in the left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (ldlPFC), which is commonly activated by offered self-bonus value. The effective value, an intermediate value representing the effective influence of the offer on the decision, was represented in the right anterior insula (rAI), and the final decision value was encoded in the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC). Second, using psychophysiological interaction and dynamic causal modeling analyses, we demonstrated three-stage feedforward processing from the rTPJ and ldPFC to the rAI and then from rAI to the mPFC. Further, we showed that these characteristics of social conversion underlie distinct sociobehavioral phenotypes. We demonstrate that the variability in the conversion underlies the difference between prosocial and selfish subjects, as seen from the differential strength of the rAI and ldlPFC coupling to the mPFC responses, respectively. Together, these findings identified fundamental neural computation processes for social value conversion underlying complex social decision making behaviors.
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