Neuroscience research has examined separately how we detect human agents on the basis of their face and body (person perception) and how we reason about their thoughts, traits or intentions (person knowledge). Neuroanatomically distinct networks have been associated with person perception and person knowledge, but it remains unknown how multiple features of a person (e.g. thin and kind) are linked to form a holistic identity representation. In this fMRI experiment, we investigated the hypothesis that when encountering another person specialised person perception circuits would be functionally coupled with circuits involved in person knowledge. In a factorial design, we paired bodies or names with trait-based or neutral statements, and independent localiser scans identified body-selective and mentalising networks. When observing a body paired with a trait-implying statement, functional connectivity analyses demonstrated that body-selective patches in bilateral fusiform gyri were functionally coupled with nodes of the mentalising network. We demonstrate that when forming a representation of a person circuits for representing another person’s physical appearance are linked to circuits that are engaged when reasoning about trait-based character. These data support the view that a ‘who’ system for social cognition involves communication between perceptual and inferential mechanisms when forming a representation of another’s identity.
Bibliographical noteCopyright the Author(s) 2016. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.
- body perception
- functional connectivity
- person knowledge