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Concept: Social relation



Social decisions require evaluation of costs and benefits to oneself and others. Long associated with emotion and vigilance, the amygdala has recently been implicated in both decision-making and social behavior. The amygdala signals reward and punishment, as well as facial expressions and the gaze of others. Amygdala damage impairs social interactions, and the social neuropeptide oxytocin (OT) influences human social decisions, in part, by altering amygdala function. Here we show in monkeys playing a modified dictator game, in which one individual can donate or withhold rewards from another, that basolateral amygdala (BLA) neurons signaled social preferences both across trials and across days. BLA neurons mirrored the value of rewards delivered to self and others when monkeys were free to choose but not when the computer made choices for them. We also found that focal infusion of OT unilaterally into BLA weakly but significantly increased both the frequency of prosocial decisions and attention to recipients for context-specific prosocial decisions, endorsing the hypothesis that OT regulates social behavior, in part, via amygdala neuromodulation. Our findings demonstrate both neurophysiological and neuroendocrinological connections between primate amygdala and social decisions.

Concepts: Central nervous system, Psychology, Amygdala, Sociology, Neuroscience, Primate, Behavior, Social relation


Humans show spontaneous synchronization of movements during social interactions; this coordination has been shown to facilitate smooth communication. Although human studies exploring spontaneous synchronization are increasing in number, little is known about this phenomenon in other species. In this study, we examined spontaneous behavioural synchronization between monkeys in a laboratory setting. Synchronization was quantified by changes in button-pressing behaviour while pairs of monkeys were facing one another. Synchronization between the monkeys was duly observed and it was participant-partner dependent. Further tests confirmed that the speed of button pressing changed to harmonic or sub-harmonic levels in relation to the partner’s speed. In addition, the visual information from the partner induced a higher degree of synchronization than auditory information. This study establishes advanced tasks for testing social coordination in monkeys, and illustrates ways in which monkeys coordinate their actions to establish synchronization.

Concepts: Psychology, Human, Sociology, Primate, Behavior, Human behavior, Higher education, Social relation


For decades autism has been defined as a triad of deficits in social interaction, communication, and imaginative play. Though there is now broad acknowledgment of the neurological basis of autism, there is little attention paid to the contribution of such neurological differences to a person’s development and functioning. Communication, relationship, and participation require neurological systems to coordinate and synchronize the organization and regulation of sensory information and movement. Developmental differences in these abilities are likely to result in differences in the way a person behaves and expresses intention and meaning. The present paper shares our emerging awareness that people may struggle with difficulties that are not immediately evident to an outsider. This paper explores the symptoms of sensory and movement differences and the possible implications for autistic people. It provides a review of the history and literature that describes the neurological basis for many of the socalled behavioral differences that people experience. The paper emphasizes the importance of our acknowledgment that a social interpretation of differences in behavior, relationship, and communication can lead us far away from the lived experience of individuals with the autism label and those who support them. We suggest alternative ways to address the challenges faced by people with autism.

Concepts: Psychology, Person, Sociology, Autism, Writing, Asperger syndrome, Behavior, Social relation


Moving in a co-ordinated fashion with another individual changes our behaviour towards them; we tend to like them more, find them more attractive, and are more willing to co-operate with them. It is generally assumed that this effect on behaviour results from alterations in representations of self and others. Specifically, through neurophysiological perception-action matching mechanisms, interpersonal motor co-ordination (IMC) is believed to forge a neural coupling between actor and observer, which serves to blur boundaries in conceptual self-other representations and causes positive views of the self to be projected onto others. An investigation into this potential neural mechanism is lacking, however. Moreover, the specific components of IMC that might influence this mechanism have not yet been specified. In the present study we exploited a robust behavioural phenomenon - automatic imitation - to assess the degree to which IMC influences neural action observation-execution matching mechanisms. This revealed that automatic imitation is reduced when the actions of another individual are perceived to be synchronised in time, but are spatially incongruent, with our own. We interpret our findings as evidence that IMC does indeed exert an effect on neural perception-action matching mechanisms, but this serves to promote better self-other distinction. Our findings demonstrate that further investigation is required to understand the complex relationship between neural perception-action coupling, conceptual self-other representations, and social behaviour.

Concepts: Time, Psychology, Perception, Behavior, Human behavior, Social relation, Cooperation


Childhood and adolescence are important developmental phases which influence health and well-being across the life span. Social relationships are fundamental to child and adolescent development; yet studies have been limited to children’s relationships with other humans. This paper provides an evidence review for the potential associations between pet ownership and emotional; behavioural; cognitive; educational and social developmental outcomes. As the field is in the early stages; a broad set of inclusion criteria was applied. A systematic search of databases and grey literature sources found twenty-two studies meeting selection criteria. The review found evidence for an association between pet ownership and a wide range of emotional health benefits from childhood pet ownership; particularly for self-esteem and loneliness. The findings regarding childhood anxiety and depression were inconclusive. Studies also showed evidence of an association between pet ownership and educational and cognitive benefits; for example, in perspective-taking abilities and intellectual development. Evidence on behavioural development was unclear due to a lack of high quality research. Studies on pet ownership and social development provided evidence for an association with increased social competence; social networks; social interaction and social play behaviour. Overall, pet ownership and the significance of children’s bonds with companion animals have been underexplored; there is a shortage of high quality and longitudinal studies in all outcomes. Prospective studies that control for a wide range of confounders are required.

Concepts: Psychology, Sociology, Educational psychology, Child, Adolescence, Developmental psychology, Behavior, Social relation


The motivation to seek social contact may arise from either positive or negative emotional states, as social interaction can be rewarding and social isolation can be aversive. While ventral tegmental area (VTA) dopamine (DA) neurons may mediate social reward, a cellular substrate for the negative affective state of loneliness has remained elusive. Here, we identify a functional role for DA neurons in the dorsal raphe nucleus (DRN), in which we observe synaptic changes following acute social isolation. DRN DA neurons show increased activity upon social contact following isolation, revealed by in vivo calcium imaging. Optogenetic activation of DRN DA neurons increases social preference but causes place avoidance. Furthermore, these neurons are necessary for promoting rebound sociability following an acute period of isolation. Finally, the degree to which these neurons modulate behavior is predicted by social rank, together supporting a role for DRN dopamine neurons in mediating a loneliness-like state. PAPERCLIP.

Concepts: Ventral tegmental area, Sociology, Motivation, Emotion, Dopamine, Social relation, Reward system, Raphe nuclei


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


Social relationships are fundamental to animals living in complex societies [1-3]. The extent to which individuals base their decisions around their key social relationships, and the consequences this has on their behavior and broader population level processes, remains unknown. Using a novel experiment that controlled where individual wild birds (great tits, Parus major) could access food, we restricted mated pairs from being allowed to forage at the same locations. This introduced a conflict for pair members between maintaining social relationships and accessing resources. We show that individuals reduce their own access to food in order to sustain their relationships and that individual foraging activity was strongly influenced by their key social counterparts. By affecting where individuals go, social relationships determined which conspecifics they encountered and consequently shaped their other social associations. Hence, while resource distribution can determine individuals' spatial and social environment [4-8], we illustrate how key social relationships themselves can govern broader social structure. Finally, social relationships also influenced the development of social foraging strategies. In response to forgoing access to resources, maintaining pair bonds led individuals to develop a flexible “scrounging” strategy, particularly by scrounging from their pair mate. This suggests that behavioral plasticity can develop to ameliorate conflicts between social relationships and other demands. Together, these results illustrate the importance of considering social relationships for explaining behavioral variation due to their significant impact on individual behavior and demonstrate the consequences of key relationships for wider processes.

Concepts: Sociology, Behavior, Social relation, Great Tit, Parus, Foraging, Forage


The oxytocin system has a crucial role in human sociality; several results prove that polymorphisms of the oxytocin receptor gene are related to complex social behaviors in humans. Dogs' parallel evolution with humans and their adaptation to the human environment has made them a useful species to model human social interactions. Previous research indicates that dogs are eligible models for behavioral genetic research, as well. Based on these previous findings, our research investigated associations between human directed social behaviors and two newly described (-212AG, 19131AG) and one known (rs8679684) single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in the regulatory regions (5' and 3' UTR) of the oxytocin receptor gene in German Shepherd (N = 104) and Border Collie (N = 103) dogs. Dogs' behavior traits have been estimated in a newly developed test series consisting of five episodes: Greeting by a stranger, Separation from the owner, Problem solving, Threatening approach, Hiding of the owner. Buccal samples were collected and DNA was isolated using standard protocols. SNPs in the 3' and 5' UTR regions were analyzed by polymerase chain reaction based techniques followed by subsequent electrophoresis analysis. The gene-behavior association analysis suggests that oxytocin receptor gene polymorphisms have an impact in both breeds on (i) proximity seeking towards an unfamiliar person, as well as their owner, and on (ii) how friendly dogs behave towards strangers, although the mediating molecular regulatory mechanisms are yet unknown. Based on these results, we conclude that similarly to humans, the social behavior of dogs towards humans is influenced by the oxytocin system.

Concepts: DNA, Psychology, Gene expression, Molecular biology, RNA, Behavior, Human behavior, Social relation