Self-control in social decision making: A neurobiological perspective

Knoch, Daria; Nash, Kyle Andrew (2015). Self-control in social decision making: A neurobiological perspective. In: Gendolla, Guido H. E.; Tops, Mattie; Koole, Sander L. (eds.) Handbook of Biobehavioral Approaches of Self-Regulation (pp. 221-234). New York: Springer 10.1007/978-1-4939-1236-0_15

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Self-control is defined as the process in which thoughts, emotions, or prepotent responses are inhibited to efficiently enact a more focal goal. Self-control not only allows for more adaptive individual decision making but also promotes adaptive social decision making. In this chapter, we examine a burgeoning area of interdisciplinary research: the neuroscience of self-control in social decision making. We examine research on self-control in complex social contexts examined from a social neuroscience perspective. We review correlational evidence from neuroimaging studies and causal evidence from neuromodulation studies (i.e., brain stimulation). We specifically highlight research that shows that self-control involves the lateral prefrontal cortex (PFC) across a number of social domains and behaviors. Research has also begun to directly integrate nonsocial with social forms of self-control, showing that the basic neurobiological processes involved in stopping a motor response appear to be involved in social contexts that require self-control. Further, neural traits, such as baseline activation in the lateral PFC, can explain sources of individual differences in self-control capacity. We explore whether techniques that change brain functioning could target neural mechanisms related to self-control capacity to potentially enhance self-control in social behavior. Finally, we discuss several research questions ripe for examination. We broadly suggest that future research can now turn to exploring how neural traits and situational affordances interact to impact self-control in social decision making in order to continue to elucidate the processes that allow people to maintain and realize stable goals in a dynamic and often uncertain social environment.

Item Type:

Book Section (Book Chapter)


07 Faculty of Human Sciences > Institute of Psychology > Social Neuroscience and Social Psychology

UniBE Contributor:

Knoch, Daria and Nash, Kyle Andrew


300 Social sciences, sociology & anthropology








Irène Gonce-Gyr

Date Deposited:

20 Nov 2014 09:41

Last Modified:

03 Apr 2018 15:07

Publisher DOI:



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