Departmental Papers (ASC)

Document Type

Journal Article

Date of this Version


Publication Source

Frontiers in Human Neuroscience



Start Page

Article 168




Normative social influences shape nearly every aspect of our lives, yet the biological processes mediating the impact of these social influences on behavior remain incompletely understood. In this Hypothesis, we outline a theoretical framework and an integrative research approach to the study of social influences on the brain and genetic moderators of such effects. First, we review neuroimaging evidence linking social influence and conformity to the brain's reward system. We next review neuroimaging evidence linking social punishment (exclusion) to brain systems involved in the experience of pain, as well as evidence linking exclusion to conformity. We suggest that genetic variants that increase sensitivity to social cues may predispose individuals to be more sensitive to either social rewards or punishments (or potentially both), which in turn increases conformity and susceptibility to normative social influences more broadly. To this end, we review evidence for genetic moderators of neurochemical responses in the brain, and suggest ways in which genes and pharmacology may modulate sensitivity to social influences. We conclude by proposing an integrative imaging genetics approach to the study of brain mediators and genetic modulators of a variety of social influences on human attitudes, beliefs, and actions.

Copyright/Permission Statement

Copyright © 2012 Falk, Way and Jasinska. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial License, which permits non-commercial use, distribution, and reproduction in other forums, provided the original authors and source are credited.


social influence, persuasion, fMRI, imaging genetics, reward, punishment, dopamine, serotonin



Date Posted: 25 October 2016