Neural substrates of social status inference: roles of medial prefrontal cortex and superior temporal sulcus

J Cogn Neurosci. 2014 May;26(5):1131-40. doi: 10.1162/jocn_a_00553. Epub 2014 Jan 6.


The negotiation of social order is intimately connected to the capacity to infer and track status relationships. Despite the foundational role of status in social cognition, we know little about how the brain constructs status from social interactions that display it. Although emerging cognitive neuroscience reveals that status judgments depend on the intraparietal sulcus, a brain region that supports the comparison of targets along a quantitative continuum, we present evidence that status judgments do not necessarily reduce to ranking targets along a quantitative continuum. The process of judging status also fits a social interdependence analysis. Consistent with third-party perceivers judging status by inferring whose goals are dictating the terms of the interaction and who is subordinating their desires to whom, status judgments were associated with increased recruitment of medial pFC and STS, brain regions implicated in mental state inference.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods
  • Male
  • Photic Stimulation / methods*
  • Pilot Projects
  • Prefrontal Cortex / physiology*
  • Social Perception*
  • Temporal Lobe / physiology*
  • Young Adult