Neural correlates of decision making after unfair treatment.Front Hum Neurosci. 2015; 9:123.FH
Empirical evidence indicates that people are inequity averse. However, it is unclear whether and how suffering unfairness impacts subsequent behavior. We investigated the consequences of unfair treatment in subsequent interactions with new interaction partners and the associated neural mechanisms. Participants were experimentally manipulated to experience fair or unfair treatment in the ultimatum game (UG), and subsequently, they were given the opportunity to retaliate in the dictator game (DG) in their interactions with players who had not played a role in the previous fair or unfair treatment. The results showed that participants dictated less money to unrelated partners after frequently receiving unfair offers in the previous UG (vs. frequently receiving fair offers in the previous UG), but only when they were first exposed to unfair UG/DG. Stronger activation in the right dorsal anterior insula was found during receiving unfair offers and during the subsequent offer-considering phase. The regional homogeneity (ReHo), a measure of the local synchronization of neighboring voxels in resting-state brain activity, in the left ventral anterior insula and left superior temporal pole was positively correlated with the behavior change. These findings suggest that unfair treatment may encourage a spread of unfairness, and that the anterior insula may be not only engaged in signaling social norm violations, but also recruited in guiding subsequent adaptive behaviors.