Social interaction

From a cognitive neuroscience perspective, what do we know about social behavior?


Social interaction is an essential part of a human life. As a new field, the social cognitive neurosciences are probing the neural underpinnings of social behavior and have produced a rich source of data that are both tempting and deeply puzzling, which are finding new links between emotion and reason, between action and perception, and between representations of other people and ourselves(Adolphs, 2003a). Further, social cognitive neuroscience seeks to explain the psychological and neural bases of socio-emotional experience and behavior(Ochsner, 2004). This essay is aimed to explain about the social behavior in the view of cognitive neuroscience.

It is a clear note from the previous studies, that behavior is in many respects specialized for guiding our interactions with others, that social behavior is more complex than other aspects of behavior (Adolphs, 2003b).To the understanding of social behavior, neuroscience might offer a reconciliation between biological and psychological approaches to social behavior in the realization that its neural regulation reflects both innate, automatic and cognitively impenetrable mechanisms, which implies a processes that are not influenced strategically by cognition and they cannot be influenced at will, and their engagement is beyond our control, as well as acquired, the contextual and volitional aspects that include Self -regulation, the ability to control one's behavior effortful and often in opposition to emotional drive(Adolphs, 2003a).

Social interaction in humans is exceedingly complex compared with that in other animal species; Representations of internal somatic states, knowledge about the self, perceptions of others and interpersonal motivations are carefully composed to support skilled social functioning, which is broadly referred to as social cognition (Amodio & Frith, 2006). Further the process of social cognition can be cognitive architecture, automaticity and control, motivated reasoning and accessibility, frames, and expectations(Lieberman, 2005)

One of the first and most crucial steps in navigating the interpersonal world is the initial perception and recognition of nonverbal cues with socioemotional meaning(Ochsner, 2004).

Some of the moral emotions like guilt, shame, embarrassment, jealousy, pride and other states are depend on a social context and they arise later in development and evolution than the basic emotions like happiness, fear, anger, disgust, sadness and require an extended representation of oneself as situated within a society; in addition, they function to regulate social behaviors, often in the long-term interests of a social group rather than the short-term interests of the individual person(Adolphs, 2003a) can take part in the regulation of social behavior.

According to neural structures, most of the brain areas have been shown to be important in processing emotions, therefore also turned out to be important for social behavior, which includes first, specific regions in higher-order sensory cortices; second, the amygdala, the ventral striatum and orbitofrontal cortex; and third, additional cortical regions such as the left prefrontal, right parietal, and anterior and posterior cingulated cortices(Adolphs, 2003a).

In specific, the perceptual representation of a stimuli and its features are carried out by higher order sensory cortical, the amygdala, striatum and orbito-frontal cortex are found to be associated to the perceptual representation with emotional response, cognitive processing and behavioral motivation and the rest higher cortical regions are involving in an internal model of the social environment(Adolphs, 2003a). Amygdala is plays a major role in more complex social judgments beyond the role of recognizing the basic emotions(Adolphs, 2003a).

Further, facial expressions are seems to be cues of basic emotions. In specific fusiform gyrus, superior temporal gyrus and other less well specified regions of occipito-temporal cortex could be thought as an interconnected system of regions, which construct a spatially distributed perceptual representation of different aspects of faces(Adolphs, 2003a).

It has been found by number of neuro imaging studies, the one brain area of great interest in social behavior is the medial frontal gyrus, around the border of Brodmann areas ,which probably serves in the integration of emotion into decision-making and planning and might also play a role in theory of mind and other specifically social functions relevant to moral judgment(Greene & Haidt, 2002).

On the whole, development in social behavior study in cognitive neuroscience field provides us enormous details about the human behavior. This essay tries to provide an overview of information which gives us a basic knowledge about the neural bases for social behavior.


Adolphs, R. (2003a). Cognitive neuroscience of human social behaviour. [Article]. Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 4(3), 165.

Adolphs, R. (2003b). Investigating the cognitive neuroscience of social behavior. [doi: DOI: 10.1016/S0028-3932(02)00142-2]. Neuropsychologia, 41(2), 119-126.

Amodio, D. M., & Frith, C. D. (2006). Meeting of minds: the medial frontal cortex and social cognition. [10.1038/nrn1884]. Nat Rev Neurosci, 7(4), 268-277.

Greene, J., & Haidt, J. (2002). How (and where) does moral judgment work? [doi: DOI: 10.1016/S1364-6613(02)02011-9]. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 6(12), 517-523.

Lieberman, M. D. (2005). Principles processes and puzzles of social cognition: An introduction for the special issue on social cognitive neuroscience, DOI: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2005.07.028]. NeuroImage, 28(4), 745-756.

Ochsner, K. N. (2004). Current directions in social cognitive neuroscience. [doi: DOI: 10.1016/j.conb.2004.03.011]. Current Opinion in Neurobiology, 14(2), 254-258.

Please be aware that the free essay that you were just reading was not written by us. This essay, and all of the others available to view on the website, were provided to us by students in exchange for services that we offer. This relationship helps our students to get an even better deal while also contributing to the biggest free essay resource in the UK!