Through the looking glass: the neural basis of self-concept in young adults with antisocial trajectories


Self-concept is shaped by social experiences, but it is not yet well understood how the neural and behavioral development of self-concept is influenced by a history of antisocial behavior. In this pre-registered study, we examined neural responses to self-evaluations in young adults who engaged with antisocial behavior in childhood and either desisted or persisted in antisocial behavior. A self-concept task was performed by 94 young adults (age range 18–30-yrs). During the task, participants with a persistent or desistent antisocial trajectory (N = 54), and typically developing young adults (N = 40) rated whether positive and negative traits in different domains (prosocial, physical) described themselves. We examined both the effects of a history of antisocial behavior as well as current heterogeneity in psychopathic traits. Participants endorsed more positive than negative trait statements across domains, which did not differ between antisocial-history groups. However, current psychopathic traits were negatively associated with prosocial self-concept and mPFC activity during self-evaluation. Together, these findings suggest that antisocial tendencies might indeed be reflected in self-concept development of young adults, specifically in the prosocial domain.