1+1=2: How the brain makes a social interaction from individual actions
Stephan de la Rosa
When we socially interact with another person, we relate our own actions to that of another person. For example, another person throws a ball to us, we will catch it. But how does our brain know which two actions belong together and make up a social interaction? Here we show how social interactions are encoded in the brain. Specifically, the neural processes responsible for the recognition of one action, e.g. a throwing, are also sensitive to the matching complementary social action, e.g. a catching. Hence, the brain encodes already knows about a social interaction when one only looks at one action of the social interaction.
1. Why were you interested in this topic?
For many of us, social interactions come easy and natural although they are the most complex interactions with our environment that exists. How does the brain solve such a complex task so easily? I find it fascinating to shed light onto the underlying psychological mechanisms.
2. What should the average person take away from your study?
Our brains needs only very little information about a social interaction in order to know what is going on in a social interaction.
3. What is your study/paper contributing to the added value for the society?
It helps you to better understand yourself by revealing a psychological principle for a so far poorly understood core human skill, namely social interaction.
4. Are there any major caveats? What questions still need to be addressed?
Future question: Our research suggests that we infer the social interaction from individual actions. Yet, do we have processes in the brain that are solely dedicated to a social interaction?
5. Is there anything else you would like to add?
The results can be interesting for clinical research (understanding social disorders like autism) or robotics (provide principles how to construct robots so that they gain social skills).The results can be interesting for clinical research (understanding social disorders like autism) or robotics (provide principles how to construct robots so that they gain social skills).
Leonid Fedorov, Dong-Seon Chang, Martin Giese, Heinrich Bülthoff, Stephan de la Rosa:
Adaptation Aftereffects Reveal Representations for Encoding of Contingent Social Actions. In: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (in press).