The impact of egocentric vs. allocentric agency attributions on the neural bases of reasoning about social rules

Nicola Canessa, Giuseppe Pantaleo, Chiara Crespi, Alessandra Gorini, Stefano F. Cappa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We used the "standard" and "switched" social contract versions of the Wason Selection-task to investigate the neural bases of human reasoning about social rules. Both these versions typically elicit the deontically correct answer, i.e. the proper identification of the violations of a conditional obligation. Only in the standard version of the task, however, this response corresponds to the logically correct one. We took advantage of this differential adherence to logical vs. deontical accuracy to test the different predictions of logic rule-based vs. visuospatial accounts of inferential abilities in 14 participants who solved the standard and switched versions of the Selection-task during functional-Magnetic-Resonance-Imaging. Both versions activated the well known left fronto-parietal network of deductive reasoning. The standard version additionally recruited the medial parietal and right inferior parietal cortex, previously associated with mental imagery and with the adoption of egocentric vs. allocentric spatial reference frames. These results suggest that visuospatial processes encoding one's own subjective experience in social interactions may support and shape the interpretation of deductive arguments and/or the resulting inferences, thus contributing to elicit content effects in human reasoning.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)40-50
Number of pages11
JournalBrain Research
Publication statusPublished - Sep 18 2014


  • Agency attribution
  • Functional magnetic resonance
  • imaging
  • Parietal cortex
  • Prefrontal cortex
  • Social reasoning
  • Wason Selection-task

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Developmental Biology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Medicine(all)


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