When cooperative actions go wrong

Michela Balconi, Maria Elide Vanutelli, Laura Gatti

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


Objective Cooperation, defined as a set of interactions with others that increase shared performance, is one of the most important human social behaviours. Cooperation secures a benefit to all the people engaged as well as important behaviours like acting prosocially. But what happens when the joint actions are not effective? This study aims to investigate the neural correlates of cooperation during a joint task. To do this an hyperscanning paradigm has been used which consists in the simultaneous recording of the cerebral activity of two or more subjects involved in interactive tasks. Participants and methods We asked 24 participants paired in 12 dyads to cooperate during an attentional task in a way to synchronize their responses and obtain better outcomes. The task was sub-divided in 8 blocks with a pause halfway assessing the goodness of the cooperation scores. The feedback was defined a priori in order to provide a social manipulation about the performance and modify their responses. The feedback was negative most of the times in order to frustrate the subjects and induce them to improve the performance in the next step. The effects of the feedback were explored by means of functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS). Results Results showed a specific pattern of brain activation involving the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) and the superior frontal gyrus (SFG). The DLPFC showed increased O2Hb (oxy-hemoglobin) level after the feedback, compatible with the need for higher cognitive effort. Also, the representation of negative emotions in response to failing interactions was signalled by a right-lateralized effect. For the STG, instead, a decreased activity was found after the feedback, which could be interpreted as disengagement for goal-oriented social mechanisms elicited by the negative and frustrating evaluation. Conclusion Results were interpreted at light of available knowledge on perceived self-efficacy and the implementation of common goals and strategies.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationAbstract Book of the «6th Meeting of the Federation of the European Societies of Neuropsychology»
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished - 2017
Event6th Meeting of the Federation of the European Societies of Neuropsychology - Maastricht
Duration: 13 Sep 201715 Sep 2017


Conference6th Meeting of the Federation of the European Societies of Neuropsychology


  • Cooperation
  • fNIRS
  • hyperscanning
  • performance
  • self-efficacy


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