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Forming attitudes via neural activity supporting affective episodic simulations

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Benoit,  Roland G.
Max Planck Research Group Adaptive Memory, MPI for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Max Planck Society;

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Paulus,  Philipp C.
Max Planck Research Group Adaptive Memory, MPI for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Max Planck Society;
International Max Planck Research School on Neuroscience of Communication, Leipzig, Germany;

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Citation

Benoit, R. G., Paulus, P. C., & Schacter, D. L. (2019). Forming attitudes via neural activity supporting affective episodic simulations. Nature Communications, 10: 2215. doi:10.1038/s41467-019-09961-w.


Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0003-4B29-C
Abstract
Humans have the adaptive capacity for imagining hypothetical episodes. Such episodic simulation is based on a neural network that includes the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC). This network draws on existing knowledge (e.g., of familiar people and places) to construct imaginary events (e.g., meeting with the person at that place). Here, we test the hypothesis that a simulation changes attitudes towards its constituent elements. In two experiments, we demonstrate how imagining meeting liked versus disliked people (unconditioned stimuli, UCS) at initially neutral places (conditioned stimuli, CS) changes the value of these places. We further provide evidence that the vmPFC codes for representations of those elements (i.e., of individual people and places). Critically, attitude changes induced by the liked UCS are based on a transfer of positive affective value between the representations (i.e., from the UCS to the CS). Thereby, we reveal how mere imaginings shape attitudes towards elements (i.e., places) from our real-life environment.