Neural bases of core and conceptual self: Implications for the representation of other persons and groups of people Open Access

Drucker, Jonathan Harris (2015)

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Self-representation is multifaceted. Building on prior research, the current experiment explores two such facets, core and conceptual self, and how these constructs extend to neurocognitive representations of other persons and groups of people. Core self is a representation of oneself as an individual whose subjective experience is unified within a particular moment. It includes identification with one's body (body ownership), authorship for one's actions (agency), and an embodied, egocentric point of view (first-person perspective). Conceptual self is a representation of oneself as an individual whose identity persists through time. It includes one's personality traits and physical characteristics, and the narrative of one's life constructed from accumulated autobiographical memories. I conducted an fMRI experiment (N=19) to determine the neural correlates of core and conceptual representations for the self, other persons, and groups of people. On each trial, participants were presented for three seconds with an individual (the self, a relative, a friend, or an acquaintance), a group (adults or children), or a semantic prompt (physical or genetic). Participants were then presented for three seconds with a property (e.g., tall) and rated how well the property applied to the individual (e.g., how tall is the individual?), group (e.g., how tall are children?), or prompt (e.g., to what extent is tall a genetic property?). The first phase, in which the individual, group, or prompt was presented, was intended to elicit core representations. The second phase, in which the property was presented, was intended to elicit conceptual representations. The core self condition recruited brain areas associated with body ownership, agency, the first-person perspective, and visuospatial imagery. The conceptual self condition involved these as well, and further implicated brain areas associated with representing personality traits, semantic person knowledge, and executive control of memory retrieval, decision making, and theory-of-mind. Representations for other persons and groups of people rely on these and other systems insofar as the information they provide is relevant to the task at hand, and available with respect to that person or group of people. Some differences between self and other were modulated by the closeness of the personal relationship.

Table of Contents

Introduction. 1

Methods. 34

Results. 46

Discussion. 59

Conclusions. 101

References. 102

Tables. 126

Figures. 147

Supplementary Tables. 175

Supplementary Figures. 178

Appendices. 193

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