The medial prefrontal cortex (MPFC) plays an important role in representing semantic self-knowledge. Studies comparing semantic self-judgments with judgments of close others suggest that interpersonal closeness may influence the degree to which the MPFC differentiates self and other. We used optical neuroimaging to examine if support for competence, relatedness, and autonomy from relationship partners moderates MPFC activity during a personality judgment task. Participants (N = 109) were asked to judge the descriptive accuracy of trait adjectives for both themselves and a friend. Participants who reported lower need fulfillment with their friend showed elevated activity only in the self-judgment condition; in contrast, participants who reported higher need fulfillment with their friend showed similarly high levels of MPFC activity across the conditions. These results are consistent with the idea that the MPFC differentially represents others on the basis of the need fulfillment experienced within the relationship.
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- Basic psychological needs
- medial prefrontal cortex
- self-determination theory
- self-referential processes