Individual differences in social desirability are associated with white-matter microstructure of the external capsule

Milan Andrejević, Dar Meshi, Wouter van den Bos, Hauke R. Heekeren

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

18 Citations (Scopus)


Humans tend to present themselves in a positive light to gain social approval. This behavioral trait, termed social desirability, is important for various types of social success. Surprisingly, investigation into the neural underpinnings of social desirability has been limited and focused only on interindividual differences in dopamine receptor binding. These studies revealed reduced dopamine receptor binding in the striatum of individuals who are high in trait social desirability. Interestingly, high dopamine signaling has been associated with low white-matter integrity, irrespective of social desirability. Based on these findings, we hypothesized that a positive association exists between trait social desirability and the white-matter microstructure of the external capsule, which carries fibers to the striatum from the prefrontal cortex. To test this hypothesis, we collected diffusion tensor imaging data and examined the relationship between fractional anisotropy of the external capsule and participants’ social desirability—our analysis revealed a positive association. As a second exploratory step, we examined the association between social desirability and white-matter microstructure throughout the whole brain. Our whole-brain analysis revealed associations within multiple major white-matter tracts, demonstrating that socially desirable behavior relies on connectivity between distributed brain regions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1255-1264
Number of pages10
JournalCognitive Affective & Behavioral Neuroscience
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Diffusion tensor imaging
  • Impression management
  • Reputation
  • Self-presentation
  • Social desirability

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