Social Cognition

Dissociating empathy from perspective-taking: Evidence from intra- and inter-individual differences research

Abstract Humans have the capacity to share others’ emotions, be they positive or negative. Elicited by the observed or imagined emotion of another person, an observer develops a similar emotional state herself. This capacity, empathy, is one of the pillars of social understanding and interaction as it creates a representation of another’s inner, mental state. …

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Neural mechanisms of affective matching across faces and scenes

Abstract The emotional matching paradigm, introduced by Hariri and colleagues in 2000, is a widely used neuroimaging experiment that reliably activates the amygdala. In the classic version of the experiment faces with negative emotional expression and scenes depicting distressing events are compared with geometric shapes instead of neutral stimuli of the same category (i.e. faces …

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The causal role of the somatosensory cortex in prosocial behaviour

Abstract Witnessing another person’s suffering elicits vicarious brain activity in areas that are active when we ourselves are in pain. Whether this activity influences prosocial behavior remains the subject of debate. Here participants witnessed a confederate express pain through a reaction of the swatted hand or through a facial expression, and could decide to reduce …

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Peripheral oxytocin predicts higher-level social cognition in men regardless of empathy quotient

Abstract Introduction: Pharmaceutical oxytocin (OT) administration is being tested as a novel treatment for social deficits in various psychiatric populations. However, little is known about how naturally occurring variation in peripheral OT relates to differences in social cognition. This study investigates whether healthy individuals with very high or very low levels of empathy differ in endogenous …

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Sleep to be social: The critical role of sleep and memory for social interaction

Abstract Humans are highly social animals who critically need to remember information from social episodes in order to successfully navigate future social interactions. We propose that such episodic memories about social encounters are processed during sleep, following the learning experience, with sleep abstracting and consolidating social gist knowledge (e.g., beliefs, first impressions, or stereotypes) about …

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Neural correlates of naturalistic social cognition: brain-behavior relationships in healthy adults

Abstract Being able to infer the thoughts, feelings and intentions of those around us is indispensable in order to function in a social world. Despite growing interest in social cognition and its neural underpinnings, the factors that contribute to successful mental state attribution remain unclear. Current knowledge is limited because the most widely used tasks …

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Handedness is related to neural mechanisms underlying hemispheric lateralization of face processing

Abstract While the right-hemispheric lateralization of the face perception network is well established, recent evidence suggests that handedness affects the cerebral lateralization of face processing at the hierarchical level of the fusiform face area (FFA). However, the neural mechanisms underlying differential hemispheric lateralization of face perception in right- and left-handers are largely unknown. Using dynamic …

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Fronto-insula network activity explains emotional dysfunctions in juvenile myoclonic epilepsy: combined evidence from pupillometry and fMRI

Abstract Emotional instability, difficulties in social adjustment, and disinhibited behavior are the most common symptoms of the psychiatric comorbidities in juvenile myoclonic epilepsy (JME). This psychopathology has been associated with dysfunctions of mesial-frontal brain circuits. The present work is a first direct test of this link and adapted a paradigm for probing frontal circuits during …

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Mechanisms of hemispheric lateralization: Asymmetric interhemispheric recruitment in the face perception network

Abstract Perceiving human faces constitutes a fundamental ability of the human mind, integrating a wealth of information essential for social interactions in everyday life. Neuroimaging studies have unveiled a distributed neural network consisting of multiple brain regions in both hemispheres. Whereas the individual regions in the face perception network and the right-hemispheric dominance for face …

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Evidence from pupillometry and fMRI indicates reduced neural response during vicarious social pain but not physical pain in autism

Abstract Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is characterized by substantial social deficits. The notion that dysfunctions in neural circuits involved in sharing another’s affect explain these deficits is appealing, but has received only modest experimental support. Here we evaluated a complex paradigm on the vicarious social pain of embarrassment to probe social deficits in ASD as …

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