The precuneus and the insula in self-attributional processes

  • Maurice Cabanis
  • Martin Pyka
  • Stephanie Mehl
  • Bernhard W. Müller
  • Stephanie Loos-Jankowiak
  • Georg Winterer
  • Wolfgang Wölwer
  • Francesco Musso
  • Stefan Klingberg
  • Alexander M. Rapp
  • Karin Langohr
  • Georg Wiedemann
  • Jutta Herrlich
  • Henrik Walter
  • Michael Wagner
  • Knut Schnell
  • Kai Vogeley
  • Hanna Kockler
  • Nadim J. Shah
  • Tony Stöcker
  • Renate Thienel
  • Katharina Pauly
  • Axel Krug
  • Tilo Kircher
Article

Abstract

Attributions are constantly assigned in everyday life. A well-known phenomenon is the self-serving bias: that is, people’s tendency to attribute positive events to internal causes (themselves) and negative events to external causes (other persons/circumstances). Here, we investigated the neural correlates of the cognitive processes implicated in self-serving attributions using social situations that differed in their emotional saliences. We administered an attributional bias task during fMRI scanning in a large sample of healthy subjects (n = 71). Eighty sentences describing positive or negative social situations were presented, and subjects decided via buttonpress whether the situation had been caused by themselves or by the other person involved. Comparing positive with negative sentences revealed activations of the bilateral posterior cingulate cortex (PCC). Self-attribution correlated with activation of the posterior portion of the precuneus. However, self-attributed positive versus negative sentences showed activation of the anterior portion of the precuneus, and self-attributed negative versus positive sentences demonstrated activation of the bilateral insular cortex. All significant activations were reported with a statistical threshold of p ≤ .001, uncorrected. In addition, a comparison of our fMRI task with data from the Internal, Personal and Situational Attributions Questionnaire, Revised German Version, demonstrated convergent validity. Our findings suggest that the precuneus and the PCC are involved in the evaluation of social events with particular regional specificities: The PCC is activated during emotional evaluation, the posterior precuneus during attributional evaluation, and the anterior precuneus during self-serving processes. Furthermore, we assume that insula activation is a correlate of awareness of personal agency in negative situations.

Keywords

Attribution theory Self-serving bias Self-attributional processes Precuneus Insula 

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Copyright information

© Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Maurice Cabanis
    • 1
  • Martin Pyka
    • 1
    • 2
  • Stephanie Mehl
    • 1
  • Bernhard W. Müller
    • 3
  • Stephanie Loos-Jankowiak
    • 3
  • Georg Winterer
    • 4
  • Wolfgang Wölwer
    • 5
  • Francesco Musso
    • 5
  • Stefan Klingberg
    • 6
  • Alexander M. Rapp
    • 6
  • Karin Langohr
    • 6
  • Georg Wiedemann
    • 7
    • 8
  • Jutta Herrlich
    • 8
  • Henrik Walter
    • 9
  • Michael Wagner
    • 10
  • Knut Schnell
    • 11
  • Kai Vogeley
    • 12
    • 13
  • Hanna Kockler
    • 12
  • Nadim J. Shah
    • 14
    • 15
  • Tony Stöcker
    • 14
  • Renate Thienel
    • 16
  • Katharina Pauly
    • 17
  • Axel Krug
    • 1
  • Tilo Kircher
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Psychiatry and PsychotherapyPhilipps University of MarburgMarburgGermany
  2. 2.Mercator Research Group “Structure of Memory”Faculty of Psychology, Ruhr-UniversitätBochumGermany
  3. 3.Clinic for Psychiatry and PsychotherapyUniversity of Duisburg-EssenEssenGermany
  4. 4.Cologne Center for Genomics (CCG)University of CologneKölnGermany
  5. 5.Department of Psychiatry and PsychotherapyMedical Faculty, University of DüsseldorfDüsseldorfGermany
  6. 6.Department of PsychiatryUniversity of TübingenTübingenGermany
  7. 7.Medical Center Fulda, Hospital for Psychiatry and PsychotherapyFuldaGermany
  8. 8.Department of Psychiatry, Psychosomatic Medicine and PsychotherapyGoethe-UniversityFrankfurt am MainGermany
  9. 9.Department of Psychiatry and PsychotherapyCharité Universitätsmedizin Berlin, Campus MitteBerlinGermany
  10. 10.Department of Psychiatry and PsychotherapyUniversity of BonnBonnGermany
  11. 11.Department of General PsychiatryUniversity of HeidelbergHeidelbergGermany
  12. 12.Department of PsychiatryUniversity of CologneKölnGermany
  13. 13.Institute of Neuroscience and Medicine, Cognitive Neurology Section INM3Research Center JülichJülichGermany
  14. 14.Institute of Neuroscience and Medicine, Medical Imaging Physics INM4Research Centre JülichJülichGermany
  15. 15.Department of Neurology, Faculty of Medicine, JARARWTH Aachen UniversityAachenGermany
  16. 16.Priority Research Centre for Translational Neuroscience & Mental HealthUniversity of NewcastleWaratahAustralia
  17. 17.Department of Psychiatry, Psychotherapy, and Psychosomatic MedicineMedical School, RWTH Aachen UniversityAachenGermany

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