Putting the nonsocial into social neuroscience: a role for domain-general priority maps during social interactions

Richard Ramsey*, Rob Ward

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    29 Citations (Scopus)
    35 Downloads (Pure)


    Whether on a first date or during a team briefing at work, people’s daily lives are inundated with social information, and in recent years, researchers have begun studying the neural mechanisms that support social-information processing. We argue that the focus of social neuroscience research to date has been skewed toward specialized processes at the expense of general processing mechanisms with a consequence that unrealistic expectations have been set for what specialized processes alone can achieve. We propose that for social neuroscience to develop into a more mature research program, it needs to embrace hybrid models that integrate specialized person representations with domain-general solutions, such as prioritization and selection, which operate across all classes of information (both social and nonsocial). To illustrate our central arguments, we first describe and then evaluate a hybrid model of information processing during social interactions that (a) generates novel and falsifiable predictions compared with existing models; (b) is predicated on a wealth of neurobiological evidence spanning many decades, methods, and species; (c) requires a superior standard of evidence to substantiate domain-specific mechanisms of social behavior; and (d) transforms expectations of what types of neural mechanisms may contribute to social-information processing in both typical and atypical populations.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1076-1094
    Number of pages19
    JournalPerspectives on Psychological Science
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2020


    • social neuroscience
    • social cognition
    • person perception
    • domain specificity
    • priority maps
    • biased competition


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