1. Orientation to the Parent Disciplines
Social-cognitive neuroscience is an emerging scientific discipline that attempts to integrate the theories, methods, and insights of social cognition and cognitive neuroscience. Although these disciplines share a focus on the information-processing mechanisms that underlie behavior, they move beyond those mechanisms in opposite directions. Cognitive neuroscience moves "downward" into the brain, with the aim of relating particular mental abilities (such as visual-spatial attention, working memory, and so forth) to the structure and function of neural systems. In contrast, social cognition moves from the information-processing mechanism "upward," into the phenomenology of the person himself or herself, exploring the social, cognitive, and affective forces that motivate particular behaviors, and the consequences that follow from them.
Posner, M. L. & Rothbart. M. (1994). Constructing neuronal theories of mind. In Large Scale Neuronal Theories of Mind. C. Koch & J. L. Davis (Eds.). p. 183-199.
L., & Nisbett, R. E. (1991). The person and the situation: Perspectives
of social psychology. New York: McGraw-Hill. [selection: pp. 1-26]
Social cognition and cognitive neuroscience are independent academic disciplines that interact sparingly. There are at least three reasons why neither discipline can afford this independence. First, the brain is an evolutionary adaptation to a social environment and is best understood in that context. Second, human brains interact with other human brains in a complex social network that produces phenomena that cannot be reduced. And finally, complete explanations of behavior always require multiple levels of analysis.
Buss, D. M. & Kenrick, D. T. (1998). Evolutionary social psychology. In D. T. Gilbert, S. T. Fiske, & G. Lindzey (Eds.), Handbook of Social Psychology, 4th Ed. New York, NY: McGraw Hill. [selection: pp. 1011-1013].
Wegner, D. M. (1995). A computer network model of human transactive memory. Social Cognition, 13(3), 319-339.
Caccioppo, J. T., & Berntson, G. G. (1992). Social psychological contributions to the decade of the brain. American Psychologist, 47(8), 1019-1028.
Williams, N. (1997). Biologists cut reductionism down to size. Science, 277, 476-477.
3. Reflexion and Reflection: A Tale of Two Systems
primary function of a brain is to allow its owner to function in the world.
The human brain does this by generating and using knowledge about people,
places, things, and the relations among them. This knowledge is generated
and used by two general classes or kinds of brain systems: a largely nonconscious,
nonverbal system that reacts automatically and reflexively to objects and
events in the world (the X-system) and a conscious, largely verbal system
that reflects on (and sometimes repudiates) those reactions (the C-system).
McClelland, J. L., McNaughton, B. L., & O'Reilly, R. C. (1995). Why there are complementary learning systems in the hippocampus and neocortex: Insights from the successes and failures of connectionist models of learning and memory. Psychological Review, 102(3), 419-437. [selection pp. 419-436; pp.440]
Smith, E. R., & DeCoster, J. (1997). Heuristic-Systematic and other dual process models in social and cognitive psychology: An integration and connectionist interpretation. Unpublished manuscript, Purdue University.
S. M. (1995). Freud returns? In R. L. Solso and D. W. Massarro (Eds.),
The science of the mind: 2001 and beyond (pp. 90-106). New York:
Oxford Univeristy Press. [selection: pp. 93-99]
X-system constructs subjective reality by using prior information to interpret
incoming information. Although this tendency facilitates our attempts to
know the world by "automatically" speeding comprehension, filling in missing
information, guiding attention and retrieval, and so on, it can also lead
us to err. One of the most vexing errors occurs when the C-system does
not realize that the X-systemís interpretation of incoming information
was influenced by prior information (referred to as "naive realism").
Schacter, D. L. (1996). Searching for memory: The brain, the mind, and the past. New York NY: Basic Books, Inc. [selection: from chapter 4 "The perils of prior experience," and "Cues that confuse" pp. 98-113]
Loftus, E. F. (1992). When a lie becomes memoryís truth: Memory distortion after exposure to misinformation. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 1(4), p. 121-123.
Anderson, J. R. (1990). Cognitive Psychology and its Implications. New York NY: W. H. Freeman and Co. [selection: "Context and pattern recognition" pp. 75-82]
Gilovich, T. (1991). How we know what isnít so. New York, NY: The Free Press. [selection: chapter 5: "Believing what we expect to see," pp. 75-87]
D. W., & Ross, L. (1991). Subjective construal, social inference, and
human misunderstanding. In M. Zanna (Ed.), Advances in experimental
social psychology (Vol. 24, pp. 319-356). New York: Academic Press.
are not always what they seem, and it is the C-systemís job to interrogate
and occasionally repudiate the subjective reality that the X-system produces.
To do so, the C-system must be able to tell (a) whether the X-systemís
processing of incoming information was influenced by prior information
("Is the fat man really jolly? Did I actually see him smile?"), (b) which
of several sources of incoming information produced the X-systemís conclusions
("Did he strike me as jolly because he was fat or because he was smiling?"),
and (c) whether the incoming information was already "contaminated" by
the observer ("Did he smile at me because I smiled at him first?").
Koutstaal, W., & Schacter, D. L. (1997). Innacuracy and inaccessibility in memory retreival: Contributions from cognitive psychology. In: P. S. Applebaum, L. A. Uyehara, & M. R. Erin (Eds.), Trauma and memory: Clinical and Legal Controversies. Oxford: Oxford University Press. [selection: pp. 112-116]
Moscovitch, M. (1995). Confabulation. In D. L. Schacter (Ed.), Memory distortion: How minds, brains, and societies reconstruct the past. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. [selection: pp. 226-234; pp. 240-247]
Wilson, T. D., & Brekke, N. (1994). Mental contamination and mental correction: Unwanted influences on judgments and evaluations. Psychological Bulletin, 116, 117-142.
Gilbert, D. T. (1994). Attribution and interpersonal perception. In A. Tesser (Ed.), Advanced social psychology (pp. 99-147). New York: McGraw-Hill. [selection: pp. 126-141]
6. Knowledge of Others
human beings are the most important and complex "objects" that we can know.
What makes them so important is that they control virtually all the rewards
toward which we strive. What makes them so complex is that (a) they are
"willful," and thus their behavior is imperfectly predictable from knowledge
of antecedent conditions, and (b) the attributes that enable us to predict
them (even imperfectly) must be inferred, and that inferential process
is naturally susceptible to error. Perhaps because of a developmental impairment
in a set of specialized neural mechanisms, some people (autistics) seem
unable to take the first step in this inferential process (identifying
intentional actions), whereas the rest of us tend to have more problems
with the second inferential step (inferring the causes of those actions).
D. T. (1998). Ordinary personology. In D. T. Gilbert, S. T. Fiske, &
G. Lindzey, (Eds.), Handbook of social psychology (4th ed.). New
York: McGraw Hill. [selection pp. 89-120]
all the people whom one can know, the self is perhaps the most vexing.
How do we attain self-knowledge? Direct knowledge of the self may be severely
limited, and we may come to know ourselves largely by observing our own
behavior and then "inventing stories" that explain it. The frontal lobes
help us construct these stories, and damage to them or their connections
can either render us "selfless," or leave us unable to tell our "true"
from our "false" selves.
Bem, D. J. (1970). Beliefs, attitudes, and human affairs. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Publishing Co. [selection: pp. 50-66].
Gazzaniga, M. S. (1995). Consciousness and the cerebral hemispheres. In M. S. Gazzaniga (Ed.), The cognitive neurosciences (pp. 1391-1400). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
D. T. (1991). Disturbance of self-awareness after frontal system damage.
In G. P. Prigatano & D. L. Schacter (Eds.), Awareness of deficit
after brain injury: Clinical and theoretical issues (pp. 63-83). New
York, NY: Oxford University Press.
kinds of stories we invent about present and past behaviors are often slanted
in our favor, maximizing benevolent perception of ourselves by inflating
the importance, centrality, and good intent of our actions. This may make
us feel happy, hopeful, and effective, but it may also deprive us of information
that we deseparately need. Are self-serving perceptions dangerous distortions
or adaptive constructions? Different neural mechanisms may produce our
rosy and our realistic perceptions, and bad things may happen when these
two mechanisms fall out of balance.
Gilbert, D. T. (1998). Ordinary personology. In D. T. Gilbert, S. T. Fiske, & G. Lindzey, (Eds.), Handbook of social psychology (4th ed.). New York: McGraw Hill. [selection pp. 120-140]
Ramachandran, V. S. (1995). Anosagnosia in parietal lobe syndrome. Consciousness and Cognition, 4, 22-55.
9. The Nature of Emotion
are evolutionary adaptations that tell us (a) whether objects and events
in the world are relevant to our needs and goals, and (b) how we should
respond to their presence or absence. Some theorists focus on the former,
arguing that emotions are understood best as either automatic reactions
to stimuli, or that emotions cannot be experienced without some prior deliberation
about the object or event. Other theorists focus on the latter, arguing
that all emotions involve one or both of two fundamental types of behavioral
responses: approach and avoidance.
Lazarus, R. (1991). Progress on a cognitive-motivational-relational theory of emotion. American Psychologist, 46(8), 819-834.
R. J. (1993). Parsing affective space: Perspectives from neuropsychology
and psychophysiology. Neuropsychology, 7(4), 464-475.
experience of emotions can exert profound influence on cognitive processes
such as memory and judgment. Some theorists think of emotions as primitive
responses that tend to bias cognition and thus promote irrationality, whereas
others think of them as "wise" responses that serve to inform and guide
cognition and thus promote rationality.
Damasio, A. (1994). Descartesí error. New York, NY: G. P. Putnamís Sons. [selection: pp. 1-52; 205-222]
Bechara, A., Damasio, H., Tranel, D., & Damasio, A. R. (1996). Failure to respond autonomically to anticipated future outcomes following damage to prefrontal cortex. Cerebral Cortex, 6, 215-225.
11. Control through the X-System
objects and events in the environment activate the X-system, we may find
ourselves performing actions, thinking thoughts, or experiencing feelings
that we did not intend. Furthermore, the C-system may be unaware of the
objects or events that evoked these responses. When this happens, we tend
to say that we have responded automatically or that the environment has
controlled our behavior. This tendency may be adaptive, but it can also
have unfortunate consequences.
Bargh, J. A. & Barndollar, K. (1996). Automaticity in action: The unconscious as repository of chronic goals and motives. In P. M. Gollwitzer & J. A. Bargh (Eds.), The psychology of action: Linking cognition and motivation to behavior (pp. 457-481). New York, NY: Guilford Press.
Wegner, D. M. (in press). The illusion of conscious will. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. [selection: chapters. 1 & 2]
J. A. & Taylor, A. E. (1992). The mobilization of procedural learning:
The "key signature" of the basal ganglia. In L. R. Squire & N. Butters
(Eds.), Neuropsychology of memory, 2nd ed. ( pp. 188-202). New York,
NY: Guilford Press.
The environment may control us on some occasions by activating the X-system, but on many other occasions the C-system exercises willful control over our thoughts. Although frontal lobe damage can severely impair this ability, normal people may also have trouble with mental control. One of the most effective ways to control oneís thoughts is to control the information to which one is exposed, which is something that people seem quite capable of doing.
Stuss, D. T., & Benson, D. F. (1987). The frontal lobes and the control of cognition and memory. In E. Perecman (Ed.), The frontal lobes revisited (pp. 141-158). New York: IRBN Press.
Rapoport, J. L. (1989). The boy who couldnít stop washing: The experience and treatment of obsessive-compulsive disorder. New York: Penguin Books. [selection: pp. 82-108; 187-199; 207-220]
D. M. (1990) White bears and other unwanted thoughts: The psychology
of mental control. New York: Viking Press. [selection: chapter 5, "The
remote control of thinking," pp. 77-98].