The neural and behavioral correlates of social evaluation in childhood
Abstract Being accepted or rejected by peers is highly salient for developing social relations in childhood. We investigated the behavioral and neural correlates of social feedback and subsequent aggression in 7–10-year-old children, using the Social Network Aggression Task (SNAT). Participants viewed pictures of peers that gave positive, neutral or negative feedback to the participant’s profile. Next, participants could blast a loud noise towards the peer, as an index of aggression. We included three groups ( N = 19, N = 28 and N = 27) and combined the results meta-analytically. Negative social feedback resulted in the most behavioral aggression, with large combined effect-sizes. Whole brain condition effects for each separate sample failed to show robust effects, possibly due to the small samples. Exploratory analyses over the combined test and replication samples confirmed heightened activation in the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) after negative social feedback. Moreover, meta-analyses of activity in predefined regions of interest showed that negative social feedback resulted in more neural activation in the amygdala, anterior insula and the mPFC/anterior cingulate cortex. Together, the results show that social motivation is already highly salient in middle childhood, and indicate that the SNAT is a valid paradigm for assessing the neural and behavioral correlates of social evaluation in children.