Social perception from visual cues: role of the STS region

Trends Cogn Sci. 2000 Jul;4(7):267-278. doi: 10.1016/s1364-6613(00)01501-1.


Social perception refers to initial stages in the processing of information that culminates in the accurate analysis of the dispositions and intentions of other individuals. Single-cell recordings in monkeys, and neurophysiological and neuroimaging studies in humans, reveal that cerebral cortex in and near the superior temporal sulcus (STS) region is an important component of this perceptual system. In monkeys and humans, the STS region is activated by movements of the eyes, mouth, hands and body, suggesting that it is involved in analysis of biological motion. However, it is also activated by static images of the face and body, suggesting that it is sensitive to implied motion and more generally to stimuli that signal the actions of another individual. Subsequent analysis of socially relevant stimuli is carried out in the amygdala and orbitofrontal cortex, which supports a three-structure model proposed by Brothers. The homology of human and monkey areas involved in social perception, and the functional interrelationships between the STS region and the ventral face area, are unresolved issues.