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The Neuroscience of Understanding the Emotions of Others

Spunt, Robert P. and Adolphs, Ralph (2019) The Neuroscience of Understanding the Emotions of Others. Neuroscience Letters, 693 . pp. 44-48. ISSN 0304-3940. PMCID PMC5732077.

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We cannot help but impute emotions to the behaviors of others, and constantly infer not only what others are feeling, but also why they feel that way. The comprehension of other people’s emotional states is computationally complex and difficult, requiring the flexible, context-sensitive deployment of cognitive operations that encompass rapid orienting to, and recognition of, emotionally salient cues; classification of emotions into culturally-learned categories; and using an abstract theory of mind to reason about what caused the emotion, what future actions the person might be planning, and what we should do next in response. This review summarizes what neuroscience data − primarily functional neuroimaging data − has so far taught us about the cognitive architecture enabling emotion understanding in its various forms.

Item Type:Article
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URLURL TypeDescription CentralArticle
Adolphs, Ralph0000-0002-8053-9692
Additional Information:© 2017 Elsevier B.V. Received 16 March 2017, Revised 8 June 2017, Accepted 13 June 2017, Available online 15 June 2017. Funded in part by NIMH grant 2P50MH094258.
Funding AgencyGrant Number
Subject Keywords:emotion; inference; perception; fMRI; neuroimaging
PubMed Central ID:PMC5732077
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20170619-084044563
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Official Citation:Robert P. Spunt, Ralph Adolphs, The neuroscience of understanding the emotions of others, Neuroscience Letters, Volume 693, 2019, Pages 44-48, ISSN 0304-3940, (
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:78320
Deposited By: Tony Diaz
Deposited On:19 Jun 2017 15:51
Last Modified:03 Oct 2019 18:07

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