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date: 25 January 2021

Abstract and Keywords

In the past decade, we have learned quite a bit about the “social brain” by examining the neural correlates of social interactions. This chapter reviews three key neural systems that seem to underpin many of these interactions: those involved in reward-related processing, those involved in processing painful experience, and those used to mentalize or understand the minds of others. Many studies examining social pleasures—such as receiving positive feedback, being treated fairly by others, and cooperating with others—indicate that such pleasures may rely in part on neural regions that process basic reward experience. Other work shows that social pains—such as being treated unfairly, being rejected, or losing a loved one—rely on neural regions involved in processing physical pain. Many of these socioemotional experiences rely critically on neural regions involved in mentalizing. The chapter concludes with a review of work exploring social attachment and love, experiences that seem to rely in part on neural regions involved in both pleasure and pain. Taken together, the studies discussed here provide a general sense of the landscape of the rich and developing literature on the cognitive neuroscience of social interactions.

Keywords: social interactions, functional magnetic resonance imaging, social cognitive neuroscience, pain, pleasure, mentalizing, ventral striatum, dorsal anterior cingulate cortex, anterior insula, medial prefrontal cortex

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