Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience
Previous research has highlighted brain regions associated with socioemotional processes in persuasive message encoding, whereas cognitive models of persuasion suggest that executive brain areas may also be important. The current study aimed to identify lateral prefrontal brain areas associated with persuasive message viewing and understand how activity in these executive regions might interact with activity in the amygdala and medial pFC. Seventy adolescents were scanned using fMRI while they watched 10 strongly convincing antidrug public service announcements (PSAs), 10 weakly convincing antidrug PSAs, and 10 advertisements (ads) unrelated to drugs. Antidrug PSAs compared with nondrug ads more strongly elicited arousal-related activity in the amygdala and medial pFC. Within antidrug PSAs, those that were prerated as strongly persuasive versus weakly persuasive showed significant differences in arousal-related activity in executive processing areas of the lateral pFC. In support of the notion that persuasiveness involves both affective and executive processes, functional connectivity analyses showed greater coactivation between the lateral pFC and amygdala during PSAs known to be strongly (vs. weakly) convincing. These findings demonstrate that persuasive messages elicit activation in brain regions responsible for both emotional arousal and executive control and represent a crucial step toward a better understanding of the neural processes responsible for persuasion and subsequent behavior change.