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post The relationship between social cognition and emotion

March 4th, 2008

The relationship between social cognition and emotion
Chair: Kevin N. Ochsner, Columbia University
Speakers: Daniela Schiller and Elizabeth Phelps, Jennifer S. Beer, Christian Keysers, Kevin N. Ochsner
Summary: It has been said that humans are the Social Animal, and that what sets us apart from other species is the complexity of our social relationships and the culture it makes possible. To understand the neural mechanisms underlying these social abilities, recent functional imaging work has attempted to clarify the neural mechanisms underlying various socially-relevant behaviors, ranging from person perception to self-regulation, empathy and imitation. Despite mounting evidence that that the neural bases of social cognition are quite similar to those of emotion, little work has attempted to explain what this similarity might mean. Each talk in this symposium will shed light on this issue. Two talks (Schiller & Phelps, Beer) will show that brain systems typically associated with emotion – the amygdala and orbitofrontal cortex – are essential for person perception, because targets for social judgments – including ourselves – have affective relevance. Two other talks (Keysers, Ochsner) will show that interactions among regions involved in motor control, affect, and mental state attribution underlie our tendency to take on the emotions of others and empathize with them. Taken together, these talks suggest that social cognition and emotion share common mechanisms that interact to support social behavior in multiple contexts.

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