Conceptual Challenges and Directions for Social Neuroscience

Social neuroscience has been enormously successful and is making major contributions to fields ranging from psychiatry to economics. Yet deep and interesting conceptual challenges abound. Is social information processing domain specific? Is it universal or susceptible to individual differences and effects of culture? Are there uniquely human social cognitive abilities? What is the ‘‘social brain,’’ and how do we map social psychological processes onto it? Animal models together with fMRI and other cognitive neuroscience approaches in humans are providing an unprecedented level of detail and many surprising results. It may well be that social neuroscience in the near future will give us an entirely new view of who we are, how we evolved, and what might be in store for the future of our species.

While I have highlighted many of the challenges faced by the field, these are being tackled with vigor. Perhaps one closing caveat would be in order: social neuroscience is so successful that it is at risk of losing its roots. It will be important to continue to collaborate closely with neurobiologists working in all species of animals, not just humans, just as it will be important to collaborate with social psychologists. And debate and discussion requires input from all relevant fields, including philosophy, psychology, biology, economics, and computer science. Social neuroscience straddles many disciplines, but it needs all of them in order to address the conceptual issues I have discussed here.

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About Giorgio Bertini

Director at Learning Change Project - Research on society, culture, art, neuroscience, cognition, critical thinking, intelligence, creativity, autopoiesis, self-organization, rhizomes, complexity, systems, networks, leadership, sustainability, thinkers, futures ++
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