Examining the value of body gestures in social reward contexts

Elin H. Williams, Laura Bilbao-Broch, Paul E. Downing, Emily S. Cross

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    4 Citations (Scopus)
    11 Downloads (Pure)


    Brain regions associated with the processing of tangible rewards (such as money, food, or sex) are also involved in anticipating social rewards and avoiding social punishment. To date, studies investigating the neural underpinnings of social reward have presented feedback via static or dynamic displays of faces to participants. However, research demonstrates that participants find another type of social stimulus, namely, biological motion, rewarding as well, and exert effort to engage with this type of stimulus. Here we examine whether feedback presented via body gestures in the absence of facial cues also acts as a rewarding stimulus and recruits reward-related brain regions. To achieve this, we investigated the neural underpinnings of anticipating social reward and avoiding social disapproval presented via gestures alone, using a social incentive delay task. As predicted, the anticipation of social reward and avoidance of social disapproval engaged reward-related brain regions, including the nucleus accumbens, in a manner similar to previous studies' reports of feedback presented via faces and money. This study provides the first evidence that human body motion alone engages brain regions associated with reward processing in a similar manner to other social (i.e. faces) and non-social (i.e. money) rewards. The findings advance our understanding of social motivation in human perception and behavior.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article number117276
    Pages (from-to)1-13
    Number of pages13
    Early online date17 Aug 2020
    Publication statusPublished - 15 Nov 2020

    Bibliographical note

    Copyright the Author(s) 2020. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


    • biological motion
    • body gestures
    • reward value
    • social motivation
    • reward anticipation


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