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So pretty! The neural correlates of self-other vs familiar-other attractiveness comparisons

Kedia, Gayannee; Mussweiler, Thomas; Adam, Ruth; Ischebeck, Anja; Ihssen, Niklas; Linden, David E.J.

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Gayannee Kedia

Thomas Mussweiler

Ruth Adam

Anja Ischebeck

David E.J. Linden


Previous research has demonstrated that comparing two persons activates a frontoparietal network associated with numbers and nonsocial magnitudes. However, it is unclear whether this network is also recruited by comparisons involving the self. Self-reflection engages self-serving motivations (e.g., the maintenance of a positive self-image) and is associated with specific brain structures, such as the medial prefrontal cortex (MPFC), the anterior insula (AI) and the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC). Self-other comparisons may thus rely on distinct neural activity. To clarify this question, we used fMRI and asked female participants to compare their own attractiveness (or the attractiveness of a familiar woman) to pictures of unknown women. Participants were slower for comparisons with targets whose attractiveness was similar to their own (or their familiar other). Yet although this behavioral result resembles the distance effect reported for nonsocial magnitudes, at the brain level, it was linked to the activity of the AI, the ACC and the MPFC. The effect of distance in these regions was stronger for self-other than familiar-other comparisons. We interpret these results in relation to previous literature in social psychology and social neuroscience.


Kedia, G., Mussweiler, T., Adam, R., Ischebeck, A., Ihssen, N., & Linden, D. E. (2019). So pretty! The neural correlates of self-other vs familiar-other attractiveness comparisons. Social Neuroscience, 14(1), 41-52.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Nov 7, 2017
Online Publication Date Nov 10, 2017
Publication Date 2019
Deposit Date Jan 15, 2018
Publicly Available Date Jan 16, 2018
Journal Social Neuroscience
Print ISSN 1747-0919
Electronic ISSN 1747-0927
Publisher Taylor and Francis Group
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 14
Issue 1
Pages 41-52


Published Journal Article (Advance online version) (1.6 Mb)

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Copyright Statement
Advance online version © 2017 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives License (,<br /> which permits non-commercial re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, and is not altered, transformed, or built upon in any way.

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