Social attention and the brain

Curr Biol. 2009 Nov 3;19(20):R958-62. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2009.08.010.


Humans and other animals pay attention to other members of their groups to acquire valuable social information about them, including information about their identity, dominance, fertility, emotions, and likely intent. In primates, attention to other group members and the objects of their attention is mediated by neural circuits that transduce sensory information about others and translate that information into value signals that bias orienting. This process likely proceeds via two distinct but integrated pathways: an ancestral, subcortical route that mediates crude but fast orienting to animate objects and faces; and a more derived route involving cortical orienting circuits that mediate nuanced and context-dependent social attention.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Attention
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Brain Mapping
  • Deception
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Macaca mulatta / physiology*
  • Male
  • Social Behavior*
  • Social Dominance
  • Social Perception*
  • Visual Perception*