Social Decision-Making and the Brain: A Comparative Perspective

Trends Cogn Sci. 2017 Apr;21(4):265-276. doi: 10.1016/j.tics.2017.01.007. Epub 2017 Feb 15.


The capacity and motivation to be social is a key component of the human adaptive behavioral repertoire. Recent research has identified social behaviors remarkably similar to our own in other animals, including empathy, consolation, cooperation, and strategic deception. Moreover, neurobiological studies in humans, nonhuman primates, and rodents have identified shared brain structures (the so-called 'social brain') apparently specialized to mediate such functions. Neuromodulators may regulate social interactions by 'tuning' the social brain, with important implications for treating social impairments. Here, we survey recent findings in social neuroscience from a comparative perspective, and conclude that the very social behaviors that make us human emerge from mechanisms shared widely with other animals, as well as some that appear to be unique to humans and other primates.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Decision Making / physiology*
  • Mice
  • Primates / physiology
  • Primates / psychology
  • Rats
  • Social Behavior*