Social Psychology and Social Neuroscience: A Connection

1. Introduction: Social Psychology and Social Neuroscience Connection

It has been said that the decade of the brain was the decade of the social psychological contribution to the understanding of the mind (Gardner, 1985). In "Social Psychological Contribution to the Decade Of The Brain: Decade of the Multilevel Analysis" each chapter has its own approach to why should social and neurosciences be linked. The general idea is that it is important to move from a reductionist view which sees the mind as being nothing more than a set of isolated psychological processes, to one which takes into account the interactivity between different levels in order to explain behaviour. In other words, it is important to see how social situations can influence how we think and feel, and how our thoughts and feelings can in turn influence our behaviour in social situations.

2. What Is Social Neuroscience?

Broadly speaking, social neuroscience is the study of how neural processes contribute to social behaviour (Adolphs, 2006). It is an interdisciplinary field which links cognitive neuroscience with social psychology. Areas of research within social neuroscience include studying how neural processes are involved in social cognition (e.g., how we process information about other people) and emotions (e.g., how we experience and express emotions such as empathy and guilt), as well as studying how social interactions and relationships are linked with neural activity and health outcomes.

3. What Is Social Psychology?

Social psychology is the scientific study of how people think about, feel about, and behave in relation to other people (Druckman & Bjork, 1994). It covers a wide range of topics, including attitudes, persuasion, group behaviour, aggression, altruism, and close relationships. Social psychologists use a variety of methods to study these topics, including experiments, surveys, case studies, and observations.

4. How Are Social Psychology and Social Neuroscience Linked?

One way in which social psychology and social neuroscience are linked is through the concept of "embodied simulation" or "embodied Cognition" (Gallese & Goldman, 1998). This theory suggests that we understand other people’s mental states by simulating them in our own minds. In other words, we put ourselves in another person’s shoes in order to understand what they are thinking or feeling. For example, if we see someone crying, we will simulate their emotional state in order to understand what they are going through. This theory has been supported by a number of studies which have shown that when we observe another person performing an action, the same areas of our brain become activated as if we were performing that action ourselves (Rizzolatti & Craighero, 2004).

Another way in which social psychology and social neuroscience are linked is through the concept of "task sharing" (Iacoboni et al., 1999). This theory suggests that when we observe another person performing a task, we simulate their actions in our own brain in order to better understand what they are doing. For example, if we watch someone fixing a car engine, we will activate motor regions in our own brain which control similar movements. This theory has been supported by a number of studies which have shown that when we observe another person performing a task, the same areas of our brain become activated as if we were performing that task ourselves (Iacoboni et al., 1999).

5. Examples of Areas in Which Social Psychology and Social Neuroscience Intersect

One example of an area in which social psychology and social neuroscience intersect is in the study of how social interactions influence our health outcomes. A number of studies have shown that social relationships are linked with both mental and physical health outcomes (e.g., Cohen, 2004; House, 2001). For example, one study found that people who had strong social relationships were 50% less likely to die over a seven-year period than those who had weak social relationships (House, 2001). Another study found that people who felt isolated and lonely were more likely to experience a decline in their physical health over a six-year period than those who did not feel isolated and lonely (Cohen, 2004). These studies suggest that social interactions can have a significant impact on our health, and that social relationships should be considered when thinking about promoting health and well-being.

Another example of an area in which social psychology and social neuroscience intersect is in the study of how empathy develops. Empathy is the ability to understand and share the emotions of another person ( Decety & Jackson, 2004). A number of studies have shown that empathy is linked with neural activity in regions of the brain which are involved in processing emotions (e.g., Gill et al., 2002; Singer et al., 2004). For example, one study found that when participants were shown pictures of people in pain, they not only reported feeling more empathy for those individuals, but they also showed increased activity in areas of the brain which are involved in processing pain (Gill et al., 2002). Another study found that when participants were asked to imagine themselves in the shoes of someone else, they showed increased activity in regions of the brain which are involved in processing emotions such as happiness, sadness, and anger (Singer et al., 2004). These studies suggest that empathy is linked with neural activity in regions of the brain which are involved in processing emotions, and that empathy develops through our ability to simulate the emotions of others.

6. Conclusion

In conclusion, social psychology and social neuroscience are linked through a number of different theories and concepts. These theories and concepts suggest that social situations can influence how we think and feel, and how our thoughts and feelings can in turn influence our behaviour in social situations. Social neuroscience is a growing field which is providing new insights into how social behaviour is linked with neural activity.

FAQ

Social psychology focuses on the study of social cognition, attitudes, and behavior, while social neuroscience focuses on the neural mechanisms underlying social behavior.

Social psychology and social neuroscience complement each other by providing different perspectives on social phenomena. Social psychology can help to identify potential psychological factors that may be affecting behavior, while social neuroscience can help to identify potential neural mechanisms that may be involved in those psychological processes.

The implications of this for research in these fields is that a multi-disciplinary approach incorporating both perspectives is likely to provide a more complete understanding of social phenomena than either perspective alone.