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Research has shown that people’s abilities to develop and act from a coherent sense of self are facilitated by satisfaction of the basic psychological needs for competence, relatedness, and autonomy. The present study utilized functional near infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) to examine the effect of need satisfaction on activity in the medial prefrontal cortex (MPFC), a key region in processing information about the self. Participants completed a decision-making task (e.g., Which occupation would you prefer, dancer or chemist?) in which they made a series of forced choices according to their personal preferences. The degree of decisional conflict (i.e., choice difficulty) between the available response options was manipulated on the basis of participants’ unique preference ratings for the target stimuli, which were obtained prior to scanning. Need satisfaction predicted elevated MPFC activity during high-conflict relative to low-conflict situations, suggesting that one way need satisfaction may promote self-coherence is by enhancing the utilization of self-knowledge in the resolution of decisional conflicts.


Institute for Positive Psychology and Education

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Journal Article

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