Research suggests that individuals with conduct disorder (CD) are marked by social impairments, such as difficulties in processing the affective reactions of others. Little is known, though, about how they make decisions during social interactions in response to emotional expressions of others. In this study, we therefore investigated the neural mechanisms underlying fairness decisions in response to communicated emotions of others in aggressive, criminal justiceinvolved boys with CD (N ¼ 32) compared with typically developing (TD) boys (N ¼ 33), aged 15–19 years. Participants received written emotional responses (angry, disappointed or happy) from peers in response to a previous offer and then had to make fairness decisions in a version of the Dictator Game. Behavioral results showed that CD boys did not make differential fairness decisions in response to the emotions, whereas the TD boys did show a differentiation and also responded more unfair to happy reactions than the CD boys. Neuroimaging results revealed that when receiving happy vs disappointed and angry reactions, the CD boys showed less activation than the TD boys in the temporoparietal junction and supramarginal gyrus, regions involved in perspective taking and attention. These results suggest that boys with CD have difficulties with processing explicit emotional cues from others on behavioral and neural levels.

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Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience