How choice modifies preference: Neural correlates of choice justification
When making a difficult choice, people often justify the choice by increasing their liking for the chosen object and decreasing their liking for the rejected object. To uncover the neural signatures of choice justification, we used functional magnetic resonance imaging to monitor neural activity when subjects rated their preference for chosen and rejected musical CDs before and after they made their choices. We observed that the trial-by-trial attitude change (i.e., increase of preference for chosen items and decrease of preference for rejected items) was predicted by post-choice activity in the ventral medial prefrontal cortex (MPFC), right temporal-parietal junction, anterior insula, and bilateral cerebellum. Furthermore, individual difference in choice justification (i.e. increased preference for chosen items minus decreased preference for rejected items) was predicted by post-choice neural activity in the dorsal MPFC, left lateral prefrontal cortex and right precentral cortex positively. In addition, interdependent self-construal was correlated with decreased activity in the ventral MPFC in the post-choice than pre-choice sessions. These findings suggest that both negative arousal/regulation and self-reflection are associated with choice justification. This provides evidence for the self-threat theory of choice justification.