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Social NeuroscienceToward Understanding the Underpinnings of the Social Mind$
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Alexander Todorov, Susan Fiske, and Deborah Prentice

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780195316872

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195316872.001.0001

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How Has Cognitive Neuroscience Contributed to Social Psychological Theory?

How Has Cognitive Neuroscience Contributed to Social Psychological Theory?

Chapter:
(p.3) Chapter 1 How Has Cognitive Neuroscience Contributed to Social Psychological Theory?
Source:
Social Neuroscience
Author(s):

Adrianna C. Jenkins

Jason P. Mitchell

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195316872.003.0001

Even the most casual follower of developments within social psychology is unlikely to have missed the recent surge of studies adapting the methods of cognitive neuroscience to questions about the nature of human social cognition. With this surge of neuroimaging studies have come novel theoretical contributions to social psychological theory. This chapter reviews three such contributions. The first has been the somewhat unexpected observation that social cognition consistently elicits a distinct pattern of brain activity that distinguishes it from non-social cognition, strongly suggesting that the mental operations giving rise to human social abilities do not simply “piggyback” on general-purpose cognitive processes but instead rely on a set of processes specialized for social thought. Second, recent neuro-imaging work has revitalized a question that, although of central importance to social cognition, has been relatively understudied by social psychologists—namely, what are the mechanisms that allow one person to successfully infer the mental states (thoughts, feelings, motivations) of others? Third, perhaps the most unique contribution made to social psychology by the use of neuroimaging has been the observation that brain regions subserving social cognition appear to have a special status in the brain.

Keywords:   cognitive neuroscience, neuroimaging studies, social cognition, social psychology, cognitive processes

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