Is it possible for neural responses to others' rewards to be as strong as those for the self? Although prior fMRI studies have demonstrated that watching others get rewards can activate one's own reward centers, such vicarious reward activation has always been less strong than responses to rewards for oneself. In the present study we manipulated participants' self-construal (independent vs. interdependent) and found that, when an independent self-construal was primed, subjects showed greater activation in the bilateral ventral striatum in response to winning money for the self (vs. for a friend) during a gambling game. However, priming an interdependent self-construal resulted in comparable activation in these regions in response to winning money for the self and for a friend. Our findings suggest that interdependence may cause people to experience rewards for a close other as strongly as they experience rewards for the self. © 2013 Elsevier Inc.
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