Faculty of Business Administration




Neural Mechanism of Self-enhancement and Prosocial Behavior


Prof. Hackjin KIM

Full Professor

Department of Psychology

Korea University



The motivation for self-enhancement, or the desire to promote or protect oneself, is a powerful and fundamental motivation, which is known to have a great impact on a wide spectrum of our daily behavior. However, our understanding of its neural mechanisms that affect our social judgment and decision-making remains still elusive at present. In this lecture, I will introduce a theoretical framework where the medial prefrontal cortex (MPFC), which is well-known to be involved in self-assessment and default-mode process, plays a key role in linking the self-enhancement motive to social behaviors, possibly through its allostatic regulatory control over homeostatic reflexes. Supporting this idea, several recent studies conducted in my laboratory provided evidence that MPFC computes the values of self-promoting or self-protecting decisions in a variety of social situations. First, we found that the desire to defend oneself from negative evaluation by others is expressed in more complicated and elaborate ways as people progress through the developmental stages within the constraints of social norms, and such a change was accompanied by the developmental maturity of the RMPFC function. Second, the RMPFC activity was also associated with increased impression management while participants were evaluating themselves as well as their friends under social observation. Finally, we also found that the activity of the rostromedial prefrontal cortex (RMPFC) was associated with increase in ethical consumer decision, that is, a socially desirable prosocial behavior, undersocial observation. In summary, these studies suggest that a desire for self-enhancement can be a key driver of various forms of social judgment and decision-making across all ages only with varying levels of sophistication. In such a process, the RMPFC appears to play a key role by carving the internal (bodily) motivation for self-enhancement so that it better fits into the constraints of external (environmental) contextual variables.


Date:           15 March, 2019 (Friday)

Time:          10:00~11:30

Venue:        Faculty of Business Administration, E22-3011


A Short Biography of Prof. Hackjin KIM

Prof. Hackjin Kim is a social neuroscientist. He is currently a full professor in the Department of Psychology of the Korea University. His research interests lie in the areas of emotional and social decision-making in humans, social neuroscience, neuroeconomics, and Economic Psychology. Prof. Kim has published a book entitled “A Journey into the Secret of Altruist’s Brain” in 2017 and more than 50 peer-reviewed articles. Many of them are published in high impact journals such as Nature Communications and PNAS. He is an associate editor of the Journal of Neuroscience and Journal of Neuropsychology, and the reviewing editor of the Frontiers in Psychology.