DEC 22, 2022 8:30 AM PST

Human Brain Responds More Strongly to Social Information than Non-Social

WRITTEN BY: Kerry Charron

A study conducted by Dartmouth researchers found that people are generally predisposed to interpret interactions to be social, even in unlikely contexts. However, people sometimes have differing views on exactly what information is social. 

Researchers assume that the brain responds to information interpreted as social more strongly than what it perceives as non-social. Studying human perceptions of socialness can help scientists better understand underlying neural processes.

Some examples of perceiving social information include seeing social information in inanimate objects like cloud formations. The social brain helps us determine potential rewards or risks from social interactions. The Dartmouth study employs a more subjective approach based on participants’ reports of whether they noticed social images. The study aimed to understand how and why people can perceive the same dynamic social information differently. The Dartmouth team used data from the social cognition task performed by over 1,000 healthy adult participants in the Human Connectome Project to examine the behavioral and neural correlates of “conscious” social perception. 

The participants were asked to watch 10 animations of several shapes in motion. Five animations were intended to reflect social content, but the other five were not. While the participants watched each 20-second video, a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scanner recorded their brain activity. Participants were asked to categorize how they perceived the content according to one of three descriptions: social, non-social, or unsure.

The findings showed that participants were biased towards perceiving information as social. They were more likely to declare an animation intended to be random as “social interaction” than to declare one intended to be social as “random motion.” Participants articulated higher uncertainty on categorizing animations when the stimuli were meant to be perceived as non-social. This pattern may indicate a hesitation to declare content as non-social.

Furthermore, the resulted show the processing of social information in early brain regions typically involved in processing visual information, including regions in the lateral occipital and temporal regions.

Moving forward, the researchers plan to create their own set of intentionally ambiguous animations and ask more nuanced questions that may reveal why perceptions of social interactions vary across individuals. This research could lead to significant advancements in therapies for disorders like autism characterized by impaired social perception.

Sources: Eureka News Alert, JNeuroSci

About the Author
Bachelor's (BA/BS/Other)
Kerry Charron writes about medical cannabis research. She has experience working in a Florida cultivation center and has participated in advocacy efforts for medical cannabis.
You May Also Like
Loading Comments...