- Evaluating ambivalence: social-cognitive and affective brain regions associated with ambivalent decision-making
- Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience
- Volume | Issue number
- 9 | 7
- Pages (from-to)
- Document type
- Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences (FMG)
- Psychology Research Institute (PsyRes)
Ambivalence is a state of inconsistency that is often experienced as affectively aversive. In this functional magnetic resonance imaging study, we investigated the role of cognitive and social-affective processes in the experience of ambivalence and coping with its negative consequences. We examined participants’ brain activity during the dichotomous evaluation (pro vs contra) of pretested ambivalent (e.g. alcohol), positive (e.g. happiness) and negative (e.g. genocide) word stimuli. We manipulated evaluation relevance by varying the probability of evaluation consequences, under the hypothesis that ambivalence is experienced as more negative when outcomes are relevant. When making ambivalent evaluations, more activity was found in the anterior cingulate cortex, the insula, the temporal parietal junction (TPJ) and the posterior cingulate cortex (PCC)/precuneus, for both high and low evaluation relevance. After statistically conservative corrections, activity in the TPJ and PCC/precuneus was negatively correlated with experienced ambivalence after scanning, as measured by Priester and Petty’s felt ambivalence scale (1996). The findings show that cognitive and social-affective brain areas are involved in the experience of ambivalence. However, these networks are differently associated with subsequent reduction of ambivalence, thus highlighting the importance of understanding both cognitive and affective processes involved in ambivalent decision-making.
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