We aimed to investigate the neural correlates associated with judgments of a positive self-conscious emotion, pride, and elucidate the difference between pride and a basic positive emotion, joy, at the neural basis level using functional magnetic resonance imaging. Study of the neural basis associated with pride might contribute to a better understanding of the pride-related behaviors observed in neuropsychiatric disorders. Sixteen healthy volunteers were studied. The participants read sentences expressing joy or pride contents during the scans. Pride conditions activated the right posterior superior temporal sulcus and left temporal pole, the regions implicated in the neural substrate of social cognition or theory of mind. However, against our prediction, we did not find brain activation in the medial prefrontal cortex, a region responsible for inferring others' intention or self-reflection. Joy condition produced activations in the ventral striatum and insula/operculum, the key nodes of processing of hedonic or appetitive stimuli. Our results support the idea that pride is a self-conscious emotion, requiring the ability to detect the intention of others. At the same time, judgment of pride might require less self-reflection compared with those of negative self-conscious emotions such as guilt or embarrassment.
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