Specialization in Relational Reasoning: The Efficiency, Accuracy, and Neural Substrates of Social versus Nonsocial Inferences

Mason, M. F., J. C. Magee, K. Kuwabara, L. Nind.
Social Psychological and Personality Science, 1(4), 318-326

Although deduction can be applied both to associations between nonsocial objects and to social relationships among people, the authors hypothesize that social targets elicit specialized cognitive mechanisms that facilitate inferences about social relations. Consistent with this view, in Experiments 1a and 1b the authors show that participants are more efficient and more accurate at inferring social relations compared to nonsocial relations. In Experiment 2 they find direct evidence for a specialized neural apparatus recruited specifically for social relational inferences. When making social inferences, functional magnetic resonance imaging results indicate that the brain regions that play a general role in logical reasoning (e.g., hippocampi,parietal cortices, and dorsolateral prefrontal cortex) are supplemented by regions that specialize in representing people's mental states (e.g., posterior superior temporal sulcus, temporo-parietal junction, and medial prefrontal cortex).

Wagner Faculty