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Seven Computations of the Social Brain

Molapour, Tanaz and Hagan, Cindy C. and Silston, Brian and Wu, Haiyan and Ramstead, Maxwell and Friston, Karl and Mobbs, Dean (2021) Seven Computations of the Social Brain. Social Congnitive and Affective Neuroscience . ISSN 1749-5016. (In Press)

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The social environment presents the human brain with the most complex of information processing demands. The computations that the brain must perform occur in parallel, combine social and nonsocial cues, produce verbal and non-verbal signals, and involve multiple cognitive systems; including memory, attention, emotion, learning. This occurs dynamically and at timescales ranging from milliseconds to years. Here, we propose that during social interactions, seven core operations interact to underwrite coherent social functioning; these operations accumulate evidence efficiently – from multiple modalities – when inferring what to do next. We deconstruct the social brain and outline the key components entailed for successful human social interaction. These include (1) social perception; (2) social inferences, such as mentalizing; (3) social learning; (4) social signaling through verbal and non-verbal cues; (5) social drives (e.g., how to increase one’s status); (6) determining the social identity of agents, including oneself; and (7) minimizing uncertainty within the current social context by integrating sensory signals and inferences. We argue that while it is important to examine these distinct aspects of social inference, to understand the true nature of the human social brain, we must also explain how the brain integrates information from the social world.

Item Type:Article
Related URLs:
URLURL TypeDescription
Molapour, Tanaz0000-0003-0419-9574
Hagan, Cindy C.0000-0002-4576-7120
Wu, Haiyan0000-0001-8869-6636
Ramstead, Maxwell0000-0002-1477-8177
Friston, Karl0000-0001-7984-8909
Mobbs, Dean0000-0003-1175-3772
Additional Information:© The Author(s) 2021. Published by Oxford University Press. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted reuse, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. Received: 05 October 2019; Revision received: 01 December 2020; Editorial decision: 20 February 2021; Accepted: 24 February 2021; Published: 25 February 2021. All authors declare no conflict of interest.
Funding AgencyGrant Number
Subject Keywords:mentalizing, social signaling, active inference, external/internal self
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20210301-080146397
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Official Citation:Tanaz Molapour, Cindy C Hagan, Brian Silston, Haiyan Wu, Maxwell Ramstead, Karl Friston, Dean Mobbs, Seven Computations of the Social Brain, Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, 2021, nsab024,
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:108238
Deposited By: Tony Diaz
Deposited On:01 Mar 2021 17:33
Last Modified:08 Mar 2021 23:23

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