The Cognitive Neuroscience of Social Behaviour

The Cognitive Neuroscience of Social Behaviour

The Cognitive Neuroscience of Social Behaviour

The Cognitive Neuroscience of Social Behaviour

Synopsis

The potential for cognitive neuroscience to shed light on social behaviour is increasingly being acknowledged and is set to become an important new approach in the field of psychology. Standing at the vanguard of this development, The Cognitive Neuroscience of Social Behaviourprovides a state-of-the-art contribution to a subject still in its infancy. Divided into three parts, the book presents an overview of research into neural substrates of social interactions, the cognitive neuroscience of social cognition and human disorders of social behaviour and cognition.

Excerpt

Understanding the neural mechanisms of cognitive processes, such as thought, perception, and language, or cognitive neuroscience, has been a rapidly progressing discipline for the last two decades. This expansion has been driven primarily by significant advances in the development of technology to observe the activity of the living human brain in action. Revolutionary techniques such as positron emission tomography (PET), event-related potentials (ERP), and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) have been at the heart of this revolution, and we now know much about how the human brain processes sensory information, plans and controls movement, perceives and produces speech, and experiences emotions.

Although we know infinitely more about the neural basis of human psychology than we did 20 years ago, the problems facing us in the future are immense. We highlight two main problems. First, the questions themselves are huge. For example, visual processing is a relatively minor component in the overall story of how the brain functions to give rise to complex human cognitive processes, but, in itself, vision is a horrendously complicated process involving over 50 cortical areas, and billions of neurons. Therefore, major advances must be made before we can even contemplate solving relatively “simple” processes, such as perception. Second, not all aspects of traditional psychology can be easily combined with the tools of cognitive neuroscience. This second problem applies especially to social cognitive neuroscience (SCN).

SCN is the study of the neural mechanisms of social cognition and social interactions in humans and animals, particularly nonhuman primates. It is also concerned with deficits of sociocognitive processes in humans, particularly those which have a dedicated neural basis, such as autism, schizophrenia, sociopathy, and depression. This branch of cognitive neuroscience is directed towards understanding complex aspects of social behaviour, such as mentalizing (understanding another’s mental states), empathy, attractiveness, self-awareness, moral reasoning, intentionality, and imitation. As such, it is slightly different from social neuroscience, or the study of the neurobiology of social behaviour from a comparative perspective. This branch of neuroscience is concerned with the neurobiology of motivational systems, such as aggression, sexual and parental behaviour, and play. These behaviours appear . . .

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