Perceiving social interactions in the posterior superior temporal sulcus

TitlePerceiving social interactions in the posterior superior temporal sulcus
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2017
AuthorsIsik, L, Koldewyn, K, Beeler, D, Kanwisher, N
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Date Published10/2017
ISSNPrint ISSN: 0027-8424; Online ISSN: 1091-6490

Primates are highly attuned not just to social characteristics of individual agents, but also to social interactions between multiple agents. Here we report a neural correlate of the representation of social interactions in the human brain. Specifically, we observe a strong univariate response in the posterior superior temporal sulcus (pSTS) to stimuli depicting social interactions between two agents, compared with (i) pairs of agents not interacting with each other, (ii) physical interactions between inanimate objects, and (iii) individual animate agents pursuing goals and interacting with inanimate objects. We further show that this region contains information about the nature of the social interaction—specifically, whether one agent is helping or hindering the other. This sensitivity to social interactions is strongest in a specific subregion of the pSTS but extends to a lesser extent into nearby regions previously implicated in theory of mind and dynamic face perception. This sensitivity to the presence and nature of social interactions is not easily explainable in terms of low-level visual features, attention, or the animacy, actions, or goals of individual agents. This region may underlie our ability to understand the structure of our social world and navigate within it.



Short TitlePNAS
Original PublicationPNAS October 9, 2017. 201714471; published ahead of print October 9, 2017

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