Social cognitive neuroscience: a review of core processes

Annu Rev Psychol. 2007;58:259-89. doi: 10.1146/annurev.psych.58.110405.085654.


Social cognitive neuroscience examines social phenomena and processes using cognitive neuroscience research tools such as neuroimaging and neuropsychology. This review examines four broad areas of research within social cognitive neuroscience: (a) understanding others, (b) understanding oneself, (c) controlling oneself, and (d) the processes that occur at the interface of self and others. In addition, this review highlights two core-processing distinctions that can be neurocognitively identified across all of these domains. The distinction between automatic versus controlled processes has long been important to social psychological theory and can be dissociated in the neural regions contributing to social cognition. Alternatively, the differentiation between internally-focused processes that focus on one's own or another's mental interior and externally-focused processes that focus on one's own or another's visible features and actions is a new distinction. This latter distinction emerges from social cognitive neuroscience investigations rather than from existing psychological theories demonstrating that social cognitive neuroscience can both draw on and contribute to social psychological theory.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Awareness / physiology*
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Brain Mapping
  • Communication
  • Emotions / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Internal-External Control*
  • Interpersonal Relations
  • Nerve Net / physiopathology
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Personal Construct Theory*
  • Psychological Theory
  • Self Concept
  • Social Behavior*