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Diminishing Reciprocal Fairness by Disrupting the Right Prefrontal Cortex

Science  03 Nov 2006:
Vol. 314, Issue 5800, pp. 829-832
DOI: 10.1126/science.1129156

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Abstract

Humans restrain self-interest with moral and social values. They are the only species known to exhibit reciprocal fairness, which implies the punishment of other individuals' unfair behaviors, even if it hurts the punisher's economic self-interest. Reciprocal fairness has been demonstrated in the Ultimatum Game, where players often reject their bargaining partner's unfair offers. Despite progress in recent years, however, little is known about how the human brain limits the impact of selfish motives and implements fair behavior. Here we show that disruption of the right, but not the left, dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) by low-frequency repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation substantially reduces subjects' willingness to reject their partners' intentionally unfair offers, which suggests that subjects are less able to resist the economic temptation to accept these offers. Importantly, however, subjects still judge such offers as very unfair, which indicates that the right DLPFC plays a key role in the implementation of fairness-related behaviors.

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