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Social neuroscience is the study of biological systems in
the body that incorporates a psychological element to explain the social and
emotional aspects of human behavior. Psychology and social neuroscience were
always thought to be mutually exclusive, as the popular belief was that neuroscience
was biological and psychology was subjective, solely based on interpersonal,
interfamilial and intersocietal influences on the individual.
Biopsychology focuses on the neural pathways and mechanisms
for understanding behavioral psychology, and behavioral neuroscience utilizes
experimental subjects, including humans and other animals, to study and develop
a comparative analysis while either manipulating or observing the nervous
It was not until psychologists John Cacioppo and Gary Berntson
published an article in American Psychologist that an individual’s psychology
was grouped in with cognitive neuroscience, which focuses on how the brain
processes social interactions.
The resulting amalgamation can be considered a synthesis of
the two sciences: biological mechanisms may trigger a social behavior or
behavioral structures that have an effect on brain and body functions. The Society
for Social Neuroscience has been implemented to give scientists and medical
professionals the ability to merge these diverse disciplines, examine data from
each other’s research and discuss the growing evidence of the support platform
for the interdisciplinary aspects of social behavior and neuroscience.
Using the famous analogy of a railroad worker whose work
injury turned him from a mild-mannered man to an angry and impulsive
individual; the neuroscience of the destruction of ventromedial aspects of the
anterior portions of the frontal cortex demonstrates the changes in social behavior.
Likewise, the psychology of social impact can prove false
the notion that heritage dictates social behavior; as in the case of a child
born to a drug addict. The child can be successfully weaned off the drugs and
not repeat the mother’s behavior upon reaching adulthood.
Together, these new perspectives underscore the
complementary nature of social and biological approaches to understanding how
the cognitive functions of the brain play a role in social behavior and
response. In as much as the two sciences were unrelated and narrowly focused,
now they mesh to pursue potential beneficial modifications to understanding
human interaction through an interchange of data, ideas and research.
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