"Neural Bases of Recommendations Differ According to Social Network Structure." Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, 2017.

Matthew Brook O’Donnell, Joseph B. Bayer, Christopher N. Cascio, and Emily B. Falk

Ideas spread across social networks, but not everyone is equally positioned to be a successful recommender. Do individuals with more opportunities to connect otherwise unconnected others—high information brokers—use their brains differently than low information brokers when making recommendations? We test the hypothesis that those with more opportunities for information brokerage may use brain systems implicated in considering the thoughts, perspectives, and mental states of others (i.e. ‘mentalizing’) more when spreading ideas. We used social network analysis to quantify individuals’ opportunities for information brokerage. This served as a predictor of activity within meta-analytically defined neural regions associated with mentalizing (dorsomedial prefrontal cortex, temporal parietal junction, medial prefrontal cortex, /posterior cingulate cortex, middle temporal gyrus) as participants received feedback about peer opinions of mobile game apps. Higher information brokers exhibited more activity in this mentalizing network when receiving divergent peer feedback and updating their recommendation. These data support the idea that those in different network positions may use their brains differently to perform social tasks. Different social network positions might provide more opportunities to engage specific psychological processes. Or those who tend to engage such processes more may place themselves in systematically different network positions. These data highlight the value of integrating levels of analysis, from brain networks to social networks.

Published in Volume 12, Issue 1, pages 61-69