Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience
As a social species, humans are acutely aware of cues that signal inclusionary status. This study characterizes behavioral and neural responses when individuals anticipate social feedback. Across two fMRI studies, participants (n = 42) made social judgments about supposed peers and then received feedback from those individuals. Of particular interest was the neural activity occurring when participants were awaiting social feedback. During this anticipatory period, increased neural activity was observed in the ventral striatum, a central component of the brain's reward circuitry, and dorsomedial pFC, a brain region implicated in mentalizing about others. Individuals high in rejection sensitivity exhibited greater responses in both the ventral striatum and dorsomedial pFC when anticipating positive feedback. These findings provide initial insight into the neural mechanisms involved in anticipating social evaluations as well as the cognitive processes that underlie rejection sensitivity.