Social Neuroscience

Neuroscience perspectives are increasingly being applied to topics that have, until recently, come under the remit of the arts, humanities and social sciences. Although many new cross-disciplinary fields have begun to emerge, an engagement with social and political theory has been conspicuously absent. In matters of shared interest relating to human behaviour, a stronger engagement between neuroscience, on the one hand, and political science, sociology and social anthropology, on the other, may be highly desirable. Whilst brain research may be able to offer perspectives on neural constraints against which competing social and political theories may be tested, such theories, in turn, can offer formulations of social phenomena that can be used to improve and further develop neuroscientific models that seek to describe them. In this collaborative research project we are addressing a number of leading social and political theories including rational choice analysis, perspectives from the poststructuralist tradition, and constrained relativism. Drawing on emerging perspectives from neuroscience – including the somatic marker and mirror neuron hypotheses – we make a case for those theories of constrained relativism encompassing the plural rationality theory pioneered by Mary Douglas, and the relational models theory developed by Alan Fiske. We further show how plural rationality theory can contextualize the somatic marker hypothesis to identify  original, experimentally testable hypotheses.

Collaborators:

  • This work is being carried out in collaboration with Marco Verweij (Professor of Political Science, Jacobs University Bremen), Professor Robert Turner (formally the director of the Max Plank institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences), and Juan Dominguez (Postdoctoral Research Assistant at the Georgiou-Karistianis Lab, Monash Univeristy, Australia)

Publications:

  • The Human Brain and The Social Bond: Merging Social and Political theory with Cognitive Neuroscience. (Submitted)

Conferences:

  • 4th annual Mary Douglas seminar – UCL department of Anthropology (2013). “The Human Brain and the Social Bond” (Authors: Verweij M, Senior TJ).

Teaching:

  • Jacobs University (Fall semester, 2012). University Studies Course: “The Neuroscience of Arts and Politics”
  • Jacobs University (Spring semester, 2011). University Studies Course: “The Neuroscience of Arts and Politics”