Topic 6 

Human sociality and the brain

Social cognition

Despite the impressive amount of results generated since the “decade of the brain”, neuroscience has until lately treated people as isolated units. Clearly, such an approach does not account for the fact that humans are inherently social beings. Doing justice to this observation, a new interdisciplinary field, social cognitive neuroscience, has emerged in the last decade and has now become one of the most productive fields in understanding the interaction between mind and brain.

Within the Berlin School of Mind and Brain this topic fits very well with “decision-making”, “language”, and “lifespan ontogeny”. Moreover, the study of sociality calls for interdisciplinary research that spans almost the entire gamut of the humanities and the social, cognitive, and neurosciences

Among the main foci of Michael Pauen’s group are the philosophical aspects of sociality and social cognition as well as the problems of social cognition, particularly relating to self-consciousness and the second-person perspective. Isabel Dziobek and her group investigate the biological and psychological foundations of social cognition. They are interested in autism spectrum disorders, empathy, theory of mind, emotion and face recognition. In recent years, Henrik Walter’s group has worked extensively on the topics of theory of mind and emotion regulation, as well as on neuroethics, moral emotion, and moral decision-making. He is speaker of two international research groups on “Neuroscience and Norms” and “The Social Dimensions of Emotion Regulation”. Martin Fischer’s chair of cognitive science at Potsdam University explores embodied cognition in the domains of reading and arithmetic. Using dedicated motion registration and TMS facilities, this group will also work on various aspects of social motor control.

Contact details of the Mind & Brain faculty

Internal links to Faculty and Associated resarchers

Special Newsletter issue on Social Cognition

View or download pdf here or see section Newsletter (internal link)



This page last updated on: 05 August 2019

Are humans the only social butterflies?
Not only humans, but also many animals are social beings. They share proximate mechanisms of cooperation, competition, and affiliation with humans, in particular with respect to neuroendocrinology and neuropeptides like oxytocin and vasopressin.

Photograph © Inken Dose