CCN meeting | Richard Ramsey (Bangor University, UK )

31-10-2019 from 15:00 to 16:00
Henri Dunantlaan 2, room 4.2
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Putting the non-social into social neuroscience

A central thrust of social neuroscience research has been to delineate processes that are specific to social interactions, so-called domain-specific processes. Although valuable insight has been generated through this approach, I argue that an overreliance on specialised, domain-specific explanations has produced a misleading characterisation of the mechanisms involved in supporting social interactions. Indeed, a relatively narrow focus on domain-specific systems has led to a situation where researchers interested in social information processing expect too much explanatory power from the operation of domain-specific systems alone. Instead, in this talk, I emphasise the relatively untapped value of hybrid accounts of social information processing, which place greater parity on domain-general as well as domain-specific processes. To do so, I outline a model of social information processing that integrates two independent lines of research that, to date, have seen little cross-talk between them. The first is work on person perception in social neuroscience, which has primarily focussed on domain-specific systems. The second line of research is based on domain-general processes associated with orienting of attention, which involves selecting between competing stimuli in the environment as well as internal states, such as task goals. An important feature of the model is that these two primary systems interact to integrate information during social interactions. To evaluate the proposed model, I compare it to existing accounts of social information processing, as well as to current empirical evidence. I show that the current model is simpler than prior accounts of social information processing by requiring fewer specialised components, that it makes novel predictions, and that it is supported by a wealth of evidence across different research domains (both social and non-social). In short, I hope to convince you of the importance of understanding non-social information processing systems when attempting to understand the biological bases that support social interactions.