Archive for the ‘Social’ Category
The human visual system is particularly attuned to and remarkably efficient at processing social cues. We can effectively “read” others’ mental and emotional states and make snap judgments about their characters and dispositions, simply by watching them. Given what is clearly a close relationship between vision and social interaction, it has become increasingly clear to social psychologists seeking to better understand the functional and neuroanatomical mechanisms underlying social perception that vision plays a critical role in the development and maintenance of social exchange. Likewise, vision scientists have come to appreciate the profound impact people, as social agents, have had on the visual system, acknowledging just how important it is to consider the socially adaptive functions that system evolved to perform.
Enactive approaches foreground the role of interpersonal interaction in explanations of social understanding. This motivates, in combination with a recent interest in neuroscientific studies involving actual interactions, the question of how interactive processes relate to neural mechanisms involved in social understanding. We introduce the Interactive Brain Hypothesis (IBH) in order to help map the spectrum of possible relations between social interaction and neural processes. The hypothesis states that interactive experience and skills play enabling roles in both the development and current function of social brain mechanisms, even in cases where social understanding happens in the absence of immediate interaction. We examine the plausibility of this hypothesis against developmental and neurobiological evidence and contrast it with the widespread assumption that mindreading is crucial to all social cognition. We describe the elements of social interaction that bear most directly on this hypothesis and discuss the empirical possibilities open to social neuroscience. We propose that the link between coordination dynamics and social understanding can be best grasped by studying transitions between states of coordination. These transitions form part of the self-organization of interaction processes that characterize the dynamics of social engagement. The patterns and synergies of this self-organization help explain how individuals understand each other. Various possibilities for role-taking emerge during interaction, determining a spectrum of participation. This view contrasts sharply with the observational stance that has guided research in social neuroscience until recently. We also introduce the concept of readiness to interact to describe the practices and dispositions that are summoned in situations of social significance (even if not interactive). This latter idea links interactive factors to more classical observational scenarios.
The complexities of the brain and nervous system make neuroscience an inherently interdisciplinary pursuit, one that comprises disparate basic, clinical, and applied disciplines. Behavioral neuroscientists approach the brain and nervous system as instruments of sensation and response; cognitive neuroscientists view the same systems as a solitary computer with a focus on representations and processes.
The Oxford Handbook of Social Neuroscience marks the emergence of a third broad perspective in this field. Social neuroscience emphasizes the functions that emerge through the coaction and interaction of conspecifics, the neural mechanisms that underlie these functions, and the commonality and differences across social species and superorganismal structures.
With an emphasis on the neural, hormonal, cellular, and genetic mechanisms underlying social behavior, social neuroscience places emphasis on the associations and influences between social and biological levels of organization. This complex interdisciplinary perspective demands theoretical, methodological, statistical, and inferential rigor to effectively integrate basic, clinical, and applied perspectives on the nervous system and brain.
Look around and it’s impossible to miss the importance of social interactions to human society. They form the basis of our families, our governments, and even our global economy. But how did we become social in the first place? Researchers have long believed that it was a gradual process, evolving from couples to clans to larger communities. A new analysis, however, indicates that primate societies expanded in a burst, most likely because there was safety in numbers.
It’s a controversial idea, admits anthropologist and study author Susanne Shultz of the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom. “We’re likely going to cause a bit of trouble.”
Neuroscientist Richard Davidson presents his research on how social and emotional learning can affect the brain.
Recent advances in neuroscience are highlighting connections between emotion, social functioning, and decision making that have the potential to revolutionize our understanding of the role of affect in education. In particular, the neurobiological evidence suggests that the aspects of cognition that we recruit most heavily in schools, namely learning, attention, memory, decision making, and social functioning, are both profoundly affected by and subsumed within the processes of emotion; we call these aspects emotional thought. Moreover, the evidence from brain-damaged patients suggests the hypothesis that emotion-related processes are required for skills and knowledge to be transferred from the structured school environment to real-world decision making because they provide an emotional rudder to guide judgment and action. Taken together, the evidence we present sketches an account of the neurobiological underpinnings of morality, creativity, and culture, all topics of critical importance to education. Our hope is that a better understanding of the neurobiological relationships between these constructs will provide a new basis for innovation in the design of learning environments.