Accumulating evidence has shown the profound influence of social reputation on human behavior and has implicated the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC) in representing subjective values induced by social interaction. However, little is known regarding how the vmPFC encodes subjective pleasantness induced by social reputation received from others. We used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to investigate how the vmPFC in males and females encodes the subjective pleasantness of social reputation received from the same gender and from the opposite gender. Behavioral data showed that positive reputation was perceived to be more pleasant than negative reputation. Intriguingly, both male and female subjects showed greater differences in the pleasantness scores between the positive reputation condition and the negative reputation condition from females than between positive and negative reputations from males. Imaging data revealed that the left vmPFC specifically contributed to the processing of positive reputation. The activity patterns of the vmPFC corresponded to the gender differences in behavior during the processing of social reputation. These results indicate that the vmPFC plays a role in representing the subjective value of positive social reputation and that this region might be a final computational site in a stream of value-based decision-making processes.
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