The Social Brain

Posted May 11th, 2010 at 2:56 pm.

Ian Morton

Mentor: Professor Paul Grobstein

To date, neuroscience has made valuable contributions towards describing the role of the nervous system in shaping an individual’s behavior. The study of interactions between individuals has, however, been predominantly the concern of social psychology and sociology, with little regard for the neural processes underlying the interactions. Recently there has been an increasing interest in understanding the way brains interact and influence one another, a field one may refer to as social neuroscience. A neural approach to describing behavior within a social context is valuable, as behavior reflects both the activity of one’s brain and one’s experiences within a complex social network.

Within the broad field of social neuroscience, I am particularly interested in the possible implications of brain organization and function in contributing to “innate” predispositions for types of social organization. Why do we find similar patterns of organization across cultures? Do these innate predispositions select for the most beneficial form of social organization? If not, how can we progress past our “natural” inclinations? Could education be used to overcome these predispositions? Is education itself effected by these dispositions?

Through a comprehensive review of current publications on brain structure and function within a social context, I hope to begin shaping hypotheses to address these and similar questions as well as to pose new questions for consideration. Additionally, I plan to use NetLogo in order to create models that I hope will further contribute to this line of inquiry. Finally, I plan to make my findings and thoughts publicly available on the Serendip website. In so doing, I hope that others will critique my ideas and contribute their own thoughts, thus beginning an ongoing dialogue about this area of social neuroscience.

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