Although active listening is an influential behavior, which can affect the social responses of others, the neural correlates underlying its perception have remained unclear. Sensing active listening in social interactions is accompanied by an improvement in the recollected impressions of relevant experiences and is thought to arouse positive feelings. We therefore hypothesized that the recognition of active listening activates the reward system, and that the emotional appraisal of experiences that had been subject to active listening would be improved. To test these hypotheses, we conducted functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) on participants viewing assessments of their own personal experiences made by evaluators with or without active listening attitude. Subjects rated evaluators who showed active listening more positively. Furthermore, they rated episodes more positively when they were evaluated by individuals showing active listening. Neural activation in the ventral striatum was enhanced by perceiving active listening, suggesting that this was processed as rewarding. It also activated the right anterior insula, representing positive emotional reappraisal processes. Furthermore, the mentalizing network was activated when participants were being evaluated, irrespective of active listening behavior. Therefore, perceiving active listening appeared to result in positive emotional appraisal and to invoke mental state attribution to the active listener.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Social Psychology
- Behavioral Neuroscience