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Concept: Social behavior


Ornament displays seen in animals convey information about genetic quality, developmental history and current disease state to both prospective sexual partners and potential rivals. In this context, showing of teeth through smiles etc is a characteristic feature of human social interaction. Tooth development is influenced by genetic and environmental factors. Adult teeth record environmental and traumatic events, as well as the effects of disease and ageing. Teeth are therefore a rich source of information about individuals and their histories. This study examined the effects of digital manipulations of tooth colour and spacing. Results showed that deviation away from normal spacing and/or the presence of yellowed colouration had negative effects on ratings of attractiveness and that these effects were markedly stronger in female models. Whitening had no effect beyond that produced by natural colouration. This indicates that these colour induced alterations in ratings of attractiveness are mediated by increased/decreased yellowing rather than whitening per se. Teeth become yellower and darker with age. Therefore it is suggested that whilst the teeth of both sexes act as human ornament displays, the female display is more complex because it additionally signals residual reproductive value.

Concepts: Disease, Male, Reproduction, Female, Behavior, Teeth, Yellow, Social behavior


The present study described a new type of multi-person neurofeedback with the neural synchronization between two participants as the direct regulating target, termed as “cross-brain neurofeedback.” As a first step to implement this concept, an experimental platform was built on the basis of functional near-infrared spectroscopy, and was validated with a two-person neurofeedback experiment. This novel concept as well as the experimental platform established a framework for investigation of the relationship between multiple participants' cross-brain neural synchronization and their social behaviors, which could provide new insight into the neural substrate of human social interactions.

Concepts: Psychology, Sociology, Science, Experiment, Theory, Behavior, Near infrared spectroscopy, Social behavior


Individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), including those who otherwise require less support, face severe difficulties in everyday social interactions. Research in this area has primarily focused on identifying the cognitive and neurological differences that contribute to these social impairments, but social interaction by definition involves more than one person and social difficulties may arise not just from people with ASD themselves, but also from the perceptions, judgments, and social decisions made by those around them. Here, across three studies, we find that first impressions of individuals with ASD made from thin slices of real-world social behavior by typically-developing observers are not only far less favorable across a range of trait judgments compared to controls, but also are associated with reduced intentions to pursue social interaction. These patterns are remarkably robust, occur within seconds, do not change with increased exposure, and persist across both child and adult age groups. However, these biases disappear when impressions are based on conversational content lacking audio-visual cues, suggesting that style, not substance, drives negative impressions of ASD. Collectively, these findings advocate for a broader perspective of social difficulties in ASD that considers both the individual’s impairments and the biases of potential social partners.

Concepts: Psychology, Sociology, Autism, Asperger syndrome, Autism spectrum, Behavior, Social relation, Social behavior


BACKGROUND: Autism spectrum disorders comprise a range of neurodevelopmental pathologies characterized, among other symptoms, by impaired social interactions. Individuals with this diagnosis are reported to often identify people by repetitively sniffing pieces of clothing or the body odor of family members. Since body odors are known to initiate and mediate many different social behaviors, smelling the body odor of a family member might constitute a sensory-based action promoting social contact. In light of this, we hypothesized that the body odor of a family member would facilitate the appearance of automatic imitation, an essential social skill known to be impaired in autism. METHODS: We recruited 20 autistic and 20 typically developing children. Body odors were collected from the children’s mothers' axillae. A child observed a model (their mother or a stranger mother) execute (or not) a reach-to-grasp action toward an object. Subsequently, she performed the same action. The object was imbued with the child’s mother’s odor, a stranger mother’s odor, or no odor. The actions were videotaped, and movement time was calculated post hoc via a digitalization technique. RESULTS: Automatic imitation effects-expressed in terms of total movement time reduction-appear in autistic children only when exposed to objects paired with their own mother’s odor. CONCLUSIONS: The maternal odor, which conveys a social message otherwise neglected, helps autistic children to covertly imitate the actions of others. Our results represent a starting point holding theoretical and practical relevance for the development of new strategies to enhance communication and social behavior among autistic individuals.

Concepts: Autism, Pervasive developmental disorder, Asperger syndrome, Autism spectrum, PDD-NOS, Odor, Social behavior, Body odor


Massive datasets that capture human movements and social interactions have catalyzed rapid advances in our quantitative understanding of human behavior during the past years. One important aspect affecting both areas is the critical role space plays. Indeed, growing evidence suggests both our movements and communication patterns are associated with spatial costs that follow reproducible scaling laws, each characterized by its specific critical exponents. Although human mobility and social networks develop concomitantly as two prolific yet largely separated fields, we lack any known relationships between the critical exponents explored by them, despite the fact that they often study the same datasets. Here, by exploiting three different mobile phone datasets that capture simultaneously these two aspects, we discovered a new scaling relationship, mediated by a universal flux distribution, which links the critical exponents characterizing the spatial dependencies in human mobility and social networks. Therefore, the widely studied scaling laws uncovered in these two areas are not independent but connected through a deeper underlying reality.

Concepts: Psychology, Sociology, Knowledge, Behavior, Human behavior, Social sciences, Mobile phone, Social behavior


The molecular and neural mechanisms regulating human social-emotional behaviors are fundamentally important but largely unknown; unraveling these requires a genetic systems neuroscience analysis of human models. Williams Syndrome (WS), a condition caused by deletion of ~28 genes, is associated with a gregarious personality, strong drive to approach strangers, difficult peer interactions, and attraction to music. WS provides a unique opportunity to identify endogenous human gene-behavior mechanisms. Social neuropeptides including oxytocin (OT) and arginine vasopressin (AVP) regulate reproductive and social behaviors in mammals, and we reasoned that these might mediate the features of WS. Here we established blood levels of OT and AVP in WS and controls at baseline, and at multiple timepoints following a positive emotional intervention (music), and a negative physical stressor (cold). We also related these levels to standardized indices of social behavior. Results revealed significantly higher median levels of OT in WS versus controls at baseline, with a less marked increase in AVP. Further, in WS, OT and AVP increased in response to music and to cold, with greater variability and an amplified peak release compared to controls. In WS, baseline OT but not AVP, was correlated positively with approach, but negatively with adaptive social behaviors. These results indicate that WS deleted genes perturb hypothalamic-pituitary release not only of OT but also of AVP, implicating more complex neuropeptide circuitry for WS features and providing evidence for their roles in endogenous regulation of human social behavior. The data suggest a possible biological basis for amygdalar involvement, for increased anxiety, and for the paradox of increased approach but poor social relationships in WS. They also offer insight for translating genetic and neuroendocrine knowledge into treatments for disorders of social behavior.

Concepts: Psychology, Genetics, Sociology, Neuroscience, Behavior, Human behavior, Social relation, Social behavior


Alcohol use and abuse profoundly influences a variety of behaviors, including social interactions. In some cases, it erodes social relationships; in others, it facilitates sociality. Here, we show that voluntary alcohol consumption can inhibit male partner preference (PP) formation (a laboratory proxy for pair bonding) in socially monogamous prairie voles (Microtus ochrogaster). Conversely, female PP is not inhibited, and may be facilitated by alcohol. Behavior and neurochemical analysis suggests that the effects of alcohol on social bonding are mediated by neural mechanisms regulating pair bond formation and not alcohol’s effects on mating, locomotor, or aggressive behaviors. Several neuropeptide systems involved in the regulation of social behavior (especially neuropeptide Y and corticotropin-releasing factor) are modulated by alcohol drinking during cohabitation. These findings provide the first evidence to our knowledge that alcohol has a direct impact on the neural systems involved in social bonding in a sex-specific manner, providing an opportunity to explore the mechanisms by which alcohol affects social relationships.

Concepts: Psychology, Sociology, Behavior, Human behavior, Social relation, Social behavior, Microtus, Social


This study investigated whether dogs would engage in social interactions with an unfamiliar robot, utilize the communicative signals it provides and to examine whether the level of sociality shown by the robot affects the dogs' performance. We hypothesized that dogs would react to the communicative signals of a robot more successfully if the robot showed interactive social behaviour in general (towards both humans and dogs) than if it behaved in a machinelike, asocial way. The experiment consisted of an interactive phase followed by a pointing session, both with a human and a robotic experimenter. In the interaction phase, dogs witnessed a 6-min interaction episode between the owner and a human experimenter and another 6-min interaction episode between the owner and the robot. Each interaction episode was followed by the pointing phase in which the human/robot experimenter indicated the location of hidden food by using pointing gestures (two-way choice test). The results showed that in the interaction phase, the dogs' behaviour towards the robot was affected by the differential exposure. Dogs spent more time staying near the robot experimenter as compared to the human experimenter, with this difference being even more pronounced when the robot behaved socially. Similarly, dogs spent more time gazing at the head of the robot experimenter when the situation was social. Dogs achieved a significantly lower level of performance (finding the hidden food) with the pointing robot than with the pointing human; however, separate analysis of the robot sessions suggested that gestures of the socially behaving robot were easier for the dogs to comprehend than gestures of the asocially behaving robot. Thus, the level of sociality shown by the robot was not enough to elicit the same set of social behaviours from the dogs as was possible with humans, although sociality had a positive effect on dog-robot interactions.

Concepts: Psychology, Interaction, Sociology, Behavior, Human behavior, Social relation, Social behavior, Social


Testosterone and cortisol have been proposed to influence aggressive behavior by altering the neural processing of facial threat signals. However, this has not been investigated in direct social interactions. Here, we explored the joint impact of testosterone, cortisol, and brain reactivity to anger expressions on women’s reactive aggression in the Social Threat Aggression Paradigm (STAP). The STAP is a competitive reaction time task in which the purported opponent displays either an angry or a neutral facial expression at the beginning of each trial and delivers increasingly loud sound blasts to the participants, successfully provoking them. Strikingly, salivary testosterone at scan-time was negatively related to both aggression and basolateral amygdala (BLA) reactivity to angry faces, whereas cortisol had no effect. When the opponent looked angry, BLA-orbitofrontal coupling was reduced, and BLA reactivity was positively related to aggression. The latter relationship was fully mediated by bilateral superior temporal gyrus (STG) activation. Our results thus support previous neurobiological models of aggression, and extend them by demonstrating that fast amygdala responses to threat modulate STG activity in order to favor aggressive retaliation. Furthermore, our study agrees with recent evidence underscoring a fear-reducing and strategically prosocial effect of testosterone on human social behavior.

Concepts: Psychology, Superior temporal gyrus, Aggression, Relational aggression, Violence, Human behavior, Anger, Social behavior


A long standing debate revolves around the question whether visual action recognition primarily relies on visual or motor action information. Previous studies mainly examined the contribution of either visual or motor information to action recognition. Yet, the interaction of visual and motor action information is particularly important for understanding action recognition in social interactions, where humans often observe and execute actions at the same time. Here, we behaviourally examined the interaction of visual and motor action recognition processes when participants simultaneously observe and execute actions. We took advantage of behavioural action adaptation effects to investigate behavioural correlates of neural action recognition mechanisms. In line with previous results, we find that prolonged visual exposure (visual adaptation) and prolonged execution of the same action with closed eyes (non-visual motor adaptation) influence action recognition. However, when participants simultaneously adapted visually and motorically - akin to simultaneous execution and observation of actions in social interactions - adaptation effects were only modulated by visual but not motor adaptation. Action recognition, therefore, relies primarily on vision-based action recognition mechanisms in situations that require simultaneous action observation and execution, such as social interactions. The results suggest caution when associating social behaviour in social interactions with motor based information.

Concepts: Psychology, Sociology, Knowledge, Behavior, Human behavior, Social relation, Social behavior