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Variability and Individual Differences in Early Social Perception and Social Cognition

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Book Series: Frontiers Research Topics ISSN: 16648714 ISBN: 9782889198481 Year: Pages: 174 DOI: 10.3389/978-2-88919-848-1 Language: English
Publisher: Frontiers Media SA
Subject: Psychology --- Science (General)
Added to DOAB on : 2016-01-19 14:05:46
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Over the past three decades mounting evidence has suggested that infants’ social perceptual and social cognitive abilities are considerably richer than was once thought. By the end of the second year of life, infants discriminate faces along various social dimensions, attend to and understand others’ goals and intentions, use the emotions of others to guide their learning and behavior, attribute dispositional characteristics to other agents, and make basic social evaluations. What has also become clear is that there is a great deal of variability in infants’ social perception and cognition. A critical, outstanding question concerns the nature and meaning of such variability. The proposed Research Topic welcomes papers addressing cutting-edge questions regarding variability and individual differences in early social perception and social cognition. The goal of these papers is to investigate overarching questions in this domain, which are necessary to move the field forward. Variability in early social perception and social cognition (among other domains) in infancy and early childhood is often attributed to noise, or overlooked in favor of focusing on age-related changes. Yet, recent work suggests that variability in social perceptual and social cognitive tasks reliably inter-relates, and predicts real-world social behaviors. For example, infants’ everyday experience with different face categories predicts individual differences in face processing, infants’ production of goal-directed actions predicts their simultaneous understanding of these actions, and variability in social attention during the second year of life is related to theory of mind during the preschool years. These findings suggest that variability in performance on social perception and social cognition tasks is not merely a nuisance variable, but, rather, may provide the key to addressing significant questions regarding the nature of infants’ social perception and social cognition, and the processes that underlie developmental change. Acknowledging and closely examining and investigating variability in early social perceptual and social cognitive abilities may represent a powerful approach for understanding development in (at least) two ways. First, variability can signal transitional points in the developmental onset of a given ability. Thus, such variability, and the extent to which variability relates to experience and/or other abilities, can be used to test hypotheses regarding mechanisms that underlie developmental changes. Second, variability can represent more enduring individual differences between infants. In this case, critical questions arise regarding the source of individual differences (that is, what factors shape the emergence of individual differences?) and whether such early individual differences contribute to the development of more advanced and sophisticated forms of social cognition and behavior. The goal of this Research Topic will be to encourage researchers to take variability in early social perception and cognition seriously. Papers that give variability center stage, and are aimed at addressing the value of variability for identifying developmental mechanisms, as well as investigating the existence, source, and antecedents of early individual differences in social perception and social cognition are welcomed. Taken together, the contributed papers will provide integral new information to the study of social perception and social cognition over the first three years of life.

The Neural Underpinnings of Vicarious Experience

Authors: --- ---
Book Series: Frontiers Research Topics ISSN: 16648714 ISBN: 9782889192649 Year: Pages: 169 DOI: 10.3389/978-2-88919-264-9 Language: English
Publisher: Frontiers Media SA
Subject: Neurology --- Science (General)
Added to DOAB on : 2015-12-03 13:02:24
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Everyday we vicariously experience a range of states that we observe in other people: we may "feel" embarrassed when witnessing another making a social faux pas, or we may feel sadness when we see a loved one upset. In some cases this process appears to be implicit. For instance, observing pain in others may activate pain-related neural processes but without generating an overt feeling of pain. In other cases, people report a more literal, conscious sharing of affective or somatic states and this has sometimes been described as representing an extreme form of empathy. By contrast, there appear to be some people who are limited in their ability to vicariously experience the states of others. This may be the case in several psychiatric, neurodevelopmental, and personality disorders where deficits in interpersonal understanding are observed, such as schizophrenia, autism, and psychopathy. In recent decades, neuroscientists have paid significant attention to the understanding of the “social brain,” and the way in which neural processes govern our understanding of other people. In this Research Topic, we wish to contribute towards this understanding and ask for the submission of manuscripts focusing broadly on the neural underpinnings of vicarious experience. This may include theoretical discussion, case studies, and empirical investigation using behavioural techniques, electrophysiology, brain stimulation, and neuroimaging in both healthy and clinical populations. Of specific interest will be the neural correlates of individual differences in traits such as empathy, how we distinguish between ourselves and other people, and the sensorimotor resonant mechanisms that may allow us to put ourselves in another's shoes.

Perspective Taking: Building a neurocognitive framework for integrating the "social" and the "spatial"

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Book Series: Frontiers Research Topics ISSN: 16648714 ISBN: 9782889194179 Year: Pages: 252 DOI: 10.3389/978-2-88919-417-9 Language: English
Publisher: Frontiers Media SA
Subject: Neurology --- Science (General)
Added to DOAB on : 2015-12-10 11:59:06
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Background: Interacting with other people involves spatial awareness of one’s own body and the other’s body and viewpoint. In the past, social cognition has focused largely on belief reasoning, which is abstracted away from spatial and bodily representations, while there is a strong tradition of work on spatial and object representation which does not consider social interactions. These two domains have flourished independently. A small but growing body of research examines how awareness of space and body relates to the ability to interpret and interact with others. This also builds on the growing awareness that many cognitive processes are embodied, which could be of relevance for the integration of the social and spatial domains: Online mental transformations of spatial representations have been shown to rely on simulated body movements and various aspects of social interaction have been related to the simulation of a conspecific’s behaviour within the observer’s bodily repertoire. Both dimensions of embodied transformations or mappings seem to serve the purpose of establishing alignment between the observer and a target. In spatial cognition research the target is spatially defined as a particular viewpoint or frame of reference (FOR), yet, in social interaction research another viewpoint is occupied by another’s mind, which crucially requires perspective taking in the sense of considering what another person experiences from a different viewpoint. Perspective taking has been studied in different ways within developmental psychology, cognitive psychology, psycholinguistics, neuropsychology and cognitive neuroscience over the last few decades, yet, integrative approaches for channelling all information into a unified account of perspective taking and viewpoint transformations have not been presented so far. Aims: This Research Topic aims to bring together the social and the spatial, and to highlight findings and methods which can unify research across areas. In particular, the topic aims to advance our current theories and set the stage for future developments of the field by clarifying and linking theoretical concepts across disciplines. Scope: The focus of this Research Topic is on the SPATIAL and the SOCIAL, and we anticipate that all submissions will touch on both aspects and will explicitly attempt to bridge conceptual gaps. Social questions could include questions of how people judge another person’s viewpoint or spatial capacities, or how they imagine themselves from different points of view. Spatial questions could include consideration of different physical configurations of the body and the arrangement of different viewpoints, including mental rotation of objects or viewpoints that have social relevance. Questions could also relate to how individual differences (in personality, sex, development, culture, species etc.) influence or determine social and spatial perspective judgements. Many different methods can be used to explore perspective taking, including mental chronometry, behavioural tasks, EEG/MEG and fMRI, child development, neuropsychological patients, virtual reality and more. Bringing together results and approaches from these different domains is a key aim of this Research Topic. We welcome submissions of experimental papers, reviews and theory papers which cover these topics.

Interactions between emotions and social context: Basic, clinical and non-human evidence

Authors: --- --- --- --- et al.
Book Series: Frontiers Research Topics ISSN: 16648714 ISBN: 9782889193196 Year: Pages: 217 DOI: 10.3389/978-2-88919-319-6 Language: English
Publisher: Frontiers Media SA
Subject: Neurology --- Science (General)
Added to DOAB on : 2016-02-05 17:24:33
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The emotions that we feel and also those that we perceive in others are crucial to the social functioning of both humans and non-human animals. Although the role of context has been extensively studied in basic sensory processing, its relevance for social cognition and emotional processing is little understood. In recent years, several lines of research at the behavioral and neural levels have highlighted the bidirectional interactions that take place between emotions and social context. Experienced emotions, even when incidental, bias decision-making. Remarkably, even basic emotions can be strongly influenced by situational contexts. In addition, both humans and non-human animals can use emotional expressions strategically as a means of influencing and managing the behavioral response of others in relation to specific environmental situations. Moreover, social emotions (e.g., engaged in moral judgment, empathic concern and social norms) seem to be context-dependent, which also questions a purely abstract account of emotion understanding and expression, as well as other social cognition domains. The present Research Topic of Frontiers in Human Neuroscience highlights the need for a situated approach to emotion and social cognition. We presented theoretical and empirical work at the behavioral and neural levels that contribute to our understanding of emotion within a highly contextualized social realm, and vice-versa. Relevant contributions are presented from diverse fields, including ethology, neurology, biology, cognitive and social neuroscience, and as well as psychology and neuropsychiatry. This integrated approach that entails the interaction between emotion and social context provide important new insights into the growing field of social neuroscience.

Advances in Virtual Agents and Affective Computing for the Understanding and Remediation of Social Cognitive Disorders

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Book Series: Frontiers Research Topics ISSN: 16648714 ISBN: 9782889197873 Year: Pages: 138 DOI: 10.3389/978-2-88919-787-3 Language: English
Publisher: Frontiers Media SA
Subject: Neurology --- Science (General)
Added to DOAB on : 2016-04-07 11:22:02
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Advances in modern sciences occur thanks to within-fields discoveries as well as confrontation of concepts and methods from separated, sometimes distant, domains of knowledge. For instance, the fields of psychology and psychopathology benefited from accumulated contributions from cognitive neurosciences, which, in turn, received insights from molecular chemistry, cellular biology, physics (neuroimaging), statistics and computer sciences (data processing), etc. From the results of these researches, one can argue that among the numerous cognitive phenomena supposedly involved in the emergence the human intelligence and organized behavior, some of them are specific to the social nature of our phylogenetic order. Scientific reductionism allowed to divide the social cognitive system into several components, i.e. emotion processing and regulation, mental state inference (theory of mind), agency, etc. New paradigms were progressively designed to investigate these processes within highly-controlled laboratory settings. Moreover, the related constructs were successful at better understanding psychopathological conditions such as autism and schizophrenia, with partial relationships with illness outcomes.

Neuroscience of Human Attachment

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Book Series: Frontiers Research Topics ISSN: 16648714 ISBN: 9782889452217 Year: Pages: 214 DOI: 10.3389/978-2-88945-221-7 Language: English
Publisher: Frontiers Media SA
Subject: Neurology --- Science (General)
Added to DOAB on : 2017-10-13 14:57:01
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Attachment is a biologically emotion regulation based system guiding cognitive and emotional processes with respect to intimate and significant relationships. Secure relationships promote infants’ exploration of the world and expand their mastery of the environment. Adverse attachment experiences like, maltreatment, loss, and separation have long been known to have enduring unfavorable effects on human mental health. Research on the neurobiological basis of attachment started with animal studies focusing on emotional deprivation and its behavioral, molecular and endocrine consequences. The present book presents an interdisciplinary synthesis of existing knowledge and new perspectives on the human neuroscience of attachment, showing the tremendous development of this field. The following chapters include innovative studies that are representative of the broad spectrum of current approaches. These involve both differing neurobiological types of substrates using measures like fMRI, EEG, psychophysiology, endocrine parameters, and genetic polymorphisms, as well as psychometric approaches to classify attachment patterns in individuals. The findings we have acquired in the meanwhile on the neural substrates of attachment in healthy subjects lay the foundation of studies with clinical groups. The final section of the book addresses evidence on changes in the functioning of these neural substrates in psychopathology.

Reaching to Grasp Cognition: Analyzing Motor Behavior to Investigate Social Interactions

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Book Series: Frontiers Research Topics ISSN: 16648714 ISBN: 9782889456000 Year: Pages: 138 DOI: 10.3389/978-2-88945-600-0 Language: English
Publisher: Frontiers Media SA
Subject: Science (General) --- Psychology
Added to DOAB on : 2019-01-23 14:53:43
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How humans plan and execute their actions has always been a fascinating topic for neuroscience and psychology. In particular, kinematics studies have contributed to shed light on how very basic actions (e.g. reaching-grasping) are affected by manipulating target properties, visually or linguistically presented stimuli, absence or presence of contextual information. Interestingly, recent studies have also shown how the social context in which actions take place and their relevance for human interactions can also affect the execution of very simple actions. This research topic aims to bring together researchers from psychology and neuroscience with a special focus on the use of kinematics analysis for the study of socially relevant aspects of cognition (e.g. action observation, competition/cooperation, complementary actions, coordination, shared emotions and so on).

Infants’ Understanding and Production of Goal-Directed Actions in the Context of Social and Object-Related Interactions

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Book Series: Frontiers Research Topics ISSN: 16648714 ISBN: 9782889452552 Year: Pages: 121 DOI: 10.3389/978-2-88945-255-2 Language: English
Publisher: Frontiers Media SA
Subject: Science (General) --- Psychology
Added to DOAB on : 2018-02-27 16:16:44
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Since the discovery of mirror neurons, the study of human infant goal-directed actions and object manipulation has burgeoned into new and exciting research directions. A number of infant studies have begun emphasizing the social context of action to understand what infants can infer when looking at others performing goal-directed actions or manipulating objects. Others have begun addressing how looking at actions in a social context, or even simply looking at objects in the immediate environment influence the way infants learn to direct their own actions on objects. Researchers have even begun investigating what aspects of goal-directed actions and object manipulation infants imitate when such actions are being modeled by a social partner, or they have been asking which cues infants use to predict others' actions. A growing understanding of how infants learn to reach, perceive information for reaching, and attend social cues for action has become central to many recent studies. These new lines of investigation and others have benefited from the use of a broad range of new investigative techniques. Eye-tracking, brains imaging techniques and new methodologies have been used to scrutinize how infants look, process, and use information to act themselves on objects and/or the social world, and to infer, predict, and recognize goal-directed actions outcomes from others. This Frontiers Research topic brings together empirical reports, literature reviews, and theory and hypothesis papers that tap into some of these exciting developmental questions about how infants perceive, understand, and perform goal-directed actions broadly defined. The papers included either stress the neural, motor, or perceptual aspects of infants’ behavior, or any combination of those dimensions as related to the development of early cognitive understanding and performance of goal-directed actions.

Mental State Understanding: Individual Differences in Typical and Atypical Development

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Book Series: Frontiers Research Topics ISSN: 16648714 ISBN: 9782889452682 Year: Pages: 203 DOI: 10.3389/978-2-88945-268-2 Language: English
Publisher: Frontiers Media SA
Subject: Science (General) --- Psychology
Added to DOAB on : 2018-02-27 16:16:44
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The current book addresses the development of mental state understanding in children with typical and atypical population, and reports new suggestions about the way to evaluate it and to support it through training. The presented frame is multifaceted. In respect to typical populations, the role of maternal reflective functioning, language, communication, and educational contexts has been deepened; and the association with internalizing/externalizing behaviors, performances in spatial tasks and pragmatics has been addressed as well. As to atypical populations, deficits in mental states understanding are reported for children with different developmental disorders or impairments, as the agenesis of the corpus callosum, Down Syndrome, preterm birth, Autism Spectrum Disorder, hearing impairment and personality difficulties such as anxiety. Overall, the papers collected in our book allow a better understanding of the mechanisms influencing mental state understanding and the effects of mental state comprehension on development.

The Janus-Face of Language: Where Are the Emotions in Words and the Words in Emotions?

Authors: --- --- --- --- et al.
Book Series: Frontiers Research Topics ISSN: 16648714 ISBN: 9782889455508 Year: Pages: 316 DOI: 10.3389/978-2-88945-550-8 Language: English
Publisher: Frontiers Media SA
Subject: Science (General) --- Psychology
Added to DOAB on : 2019-01-23 14:53:42
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Language has long been considered independent from emotions. In the last few years however research has accumulated empirical evidence against this theoretical belief of a purely cognitive-based foundation of language. In particular, through research on emotional word processing it has been shown, that processing of emotional words activates emotional brain structures, elicits emotional facial expressions and modulates action tendencies of approach and avoidance, probably in a similar manner as processing of non-verbal emotional stimuli does. In addition, it has been shown that emotional content is already processed in the visual cortex in a facilitated manner which suggests that processing of emotional language content is able to circumvent in-depth semantic analysis.


Yet, this is only one side of the coin. Very recent research putting words into context suggests that language may also construe emotions and that by studying word processing one can provide a window to one’s own feelings. All in all, the empirical observations support the thesis of a close relationship between language and emotions at the level of word meaning as a specific evolutionary achievement of the human species. As such, this relationship seems to be different from the one between emotions and speech, where emotional meaning is conveyed by nonverbal features of the voice. But what does this relationship between written words and emotions theoretically imply for the processing of emotional information?


The present Research Topic and its related articles aim to provide answers to this question. This book comprises several experimental studies investigating the brain structures and the time course of emotional word processing. Included are studies examining the affective core dimensions underlying affective word processing and studies that show how these basic affective dimensions influence word processing in general as well as the interaction between words, feelings and (expressive) behavior. In addition, new impetus comes from studies that on the one hand investigate how task-, sublexical and intrapersonal factors influence emotional word processing and on the other hand extend emotional word processing to the domains of social context and self-related processing. Finally, future perspectives are outlined including research on emotion and language acquisition, culture and multilingualism.


In summary, this textbook offers scientists from different disciplines insight into the neurophysiological, behavioral and subjective mechanisms underlying emotion and language interactions. It gives new impulses to existing theories on the embodiment of language and emotion and provides new ways of looking at emotion-cognition interactions.

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