Disconfirmation modulates the neural correlates of the false consensus effect: A parametric modulation approach

B. Locke Welborn, Matthew D. Lieberman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
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The false consensus effect (FCE) - the tendency to (erroneously) project our attitudes and opinions onto others - is an enduring bias in social reasoning with important societal implications. In this fMRI investigation, we examine the neural correlates of within-subject variation in consensus bias on a variety of social and political issues. Bias demonstrated a strong association with activity in brain regions implicated in self-related cognition, mentalizing, and valuation. Importantly, however, recruitment of these regions predicted consensus bias only in the presence of social disconfirmation, in the form of feedback discrepant with participants' own attitudes. These results suggest that the psychological and neural mechanisms underlying the tendency to project attitudes onto others are crucially moderated by motivational factors, including the desire to affirm the normativity of one's own position. This research complements social psychological theorizing about the factors contributing to the FCE, and further emphasizes the role of motivated cognition in social reasoning.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-10
Number of pages10
Early online date14 Oct 2018
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2018


  • fMRI
  • Social neuroscience
  • False consensus effect
  • Motivated Cognition
  • Attitudes
  • Parametric modulations

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