Social Neuroscience is an interdisciplinary field that uses insights from the social and neurosciences to investigate the fundamentals of human social and emotional behaviour, whereby the relation between the brain and social interaction is of the essence.
In the 20th century, biological and social explanations for human behaviour were often deemed to be incompatible. However, recent developments in social and biological sciences have led to the foundation of social neuroscience, a field that attempts to integrate knowledge from these two fields in order to develop new biologically-constraint insights and predictions for social behaviour, to ultimately also offer points of reference for altering socially deviant behaviours.
Social neuroscience thus is a new scientific discipline, which starts off with theories and concepts that are mainly based on social psychology and the cognitive neurosciences, but biological, clinical and developmental psychology also play a vital role. Furthermore, there are application-oriented links to economics, (micro)sociology, law and political sciences.
Social neuroscience studies social behaviour from the perspective of an evolutionary 'social brain' and tries to link important socio-emotional behaviours and misbehaviours not only to specific areas of the brain and their communication, but also to neurotransmission and hormonal processes.
An analysis of the biophysical and behavioural processes also forms an important part, in so far as these processes offer insight into the functioning of the brain in social interactions. Within social neuroscientific research, behavioural paradigms are therefore used that allow interpretations from a neuroscientific perspective, but also modern bio / physiological / neuroscientific methods, such as fMRI, EEG / ERP, TMS, ECG, EMG, GSR, eyetracking and pupillometry, and hormonal measurements.
Globally, the field is one of the fastest growing interdisciplinary fields of science. In social neuroscience, the relationship between social behaviour and the social brain is classified in terms of a framework pertaining to so-called bottom-up subcortically-controlled and top-down cortically-controlled processes. The bottom-up processes are the social-affective processes that are controlled reflexively by the limbic emotional-motivational structures, whilst the social-cognitive processes are more reflective and are dominated by top-down-controlled cortical mechanism structures.
Nevertheless, our social behaviour is always a combination of social-cognitive and social-affective processes. As a result, the themes studied in social neuroscience are endless; recognition/interpretation of social and emotional stimuli, social stereotyping, prejudice and discrimination, social communication and trust, social empathy and perspective taking, morality, social aggression and fear, self-regulation and impulse control, recognition of other people's and one’s own intentions, self-recognition and awareness, socio-economic decision-making behaviour, risk and gambling behaviour, etc..