Uta and Chris Frith on the social brain

In the special issue of the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B entitled "Personal perspectives in the life sciences for the Royal Society's 350th anniversary", a freely available article on "The social brain: allowing humans to boldly go where no other species has been" by Uta Frith and  Chris Frith ( Phil. Trans. R. Soc. B 12 January 2010 vol. 365 no. 1537 165-17). Also a video interview of Uta and Chris here. Abstract below the fold.



Abstract: The biological basis of complex human social interaction and communication has been illuminated through a coming together of various methods and disciplines. Among these are comparative studies of other species, studies of disorders of social cognition and developmental psychology. The use of neuroimaging and computational models has given weight to speculations about the evolution of social behaviour and culture in human societies. We highlight some networks of the social brain relevant to two-person interactions and consider the social signals between interacting partners that activate these networks. We make a case for distinguishing between signals that automatically trigger interaction and cooperation and ostensive signals that are used deliberately. We suggest that this ostensive signalling is needed for ‘closing the loop' in two-person interactions, where the partners each know that they have the intention to communicate. The use of deliberate social signals can serve to increase reputation and trust and facilitates teaching. This is likely to be a critical factor in the steep cultural ascent of mankind.


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