Cognition Workshop 11/08/23: Qiongwen (Jovie) Cao

Title: Moral conviction and metacognition shape neural response during sociopolitical decision-making

Qiongwen (Jovie) Cao, doctoral student in the Decety Lab, Department of Psychology, University of Chicago

Abstract: Moral conviction has significant social and political implications, but how it is incorporated into the valuation and decision-making process remains underexplored. In the current project, we examined the brain responses associated with support for sociopolitical issues that vary on moral conviction during decision-making. Participants (N = 45) underwent fMRI scanning while, on each trial, choosing between two groups of hypothetical political protesters. Results demonstrated that stronger moral conviction was related to faster and more consistent decisions. Hemodynamic response in the aINS, ACC, lPFC were among the regions that tracked the moral conviction level of a decision. This is in line with the conceptual framework that moral conviction incorporates cognitive and affective dimensions. Metacognitive sensitivity, measured in a separate perceptual task, correlated with parametric effects of moral conviction on hemodynamic response in that these effects were more pronounced among individuals with poorer metacognitive sensitivity. Mean support rating of the protesters was positively associated with brain activity in regions including vmPFC and amygdala, suggesting that brain regions in the valuation circuit are modulated by support. These findings provide novel evidence regarding the neural basis of support and moral conviction during sociopolitical decisions.

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