A dual mechanism neural framework for social understanding

Philosophical Psychology 20 (1):43 – 63 (2007)
Abstract
In this paper a theoretical framework is proposed for how the brain processes the information necessary for us to achieve the understanding of others that we experience in our social worlds. Our framework attempts to expand several previous approaches to more fully account for the various data on interpersonal understanding and to respond to theoretical critiques in this area. Specifically, we propose that social understanding must be achieved by at least two mechanisms in the brain that are capable of parallel information processing. The first mechanism, based on research into mirror matching systems in the brain, suggests that representations of others are mapped onto an observer's representations of these same schemas in order to understand them. The second mechanism requires semantic analysis of a given social situation in order to understand the actions of others and most likely involves conscious processes. We suggest that experimental correlates of these systems should be dissociable using both behavioral and neuroimaging techniques.
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