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Concept: Social relation

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193

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

193

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

184

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

169

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

164

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

123

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

112

Cost-benefit trade-offs for individuals participating in social behaviors are the basis for current theories on the evolution of social behaviors and societies. However, research on social strategies has largely ignored solitary animals, in which we assume that rare interactions are explained by courtship or territoriality or, in special circumstances, resource distributions or kinship. We used directed network analysis of conspecific tolerance at food sources to provide evidence that a solitary carnivore, the puma (Puma concolor), exhibited adaptive social strategies similar to more social animals. Every puma in our analysis participated in the network, which featured densely connected communities delineated by territorial males. Territorial males also structured social interactions among pumas. Contrary to expectations, conspecific tolerance was best characterized by direct reciprocity, establishing a fitness benefit to individuals that participated in social behaviors. However, reciprocity operated on a longer time scale than in gregarious species. Tolerance was also explained by hierarchical reciprocity, which we defined as network triangles in which one puma (generally male) received tolerance from two others (generally females) that also tolerated each other. Hierarchical reciprocity suggested that males might be cheating females; nevertheless, we suspect that males and females used different fitness currencies. For example, females may have benefited from tolerating males through the maintenance of social niches that support breeding opportunities. Our work contributes evidence of adaptive social strategies in a solitary carnivore and support for the applicability of theories of social behavior across taxa, including solitary species in which they are rarely tested.

Concepts: Psychology, Human, Male, Sociology, Social relation, Felidae, Social behavior, Puma

98

Dog walking is a popular everyday physical activity. Dog owners are generally more active than non-owners, but some rarely walk with their dog. The strength of the dog-owner relationship is known to be correlated with dog walking, and this qualitative study investigates why. Twenty-six interviews were combined with autoethnography of dog walking experiences. Dog walking was constructed as “for the dog”, however, owners represented their dog’s needs in a way which aligned with their own. Central to the construction of need was perceptions of dog personality and behaviour. Owners reported deriving positive outcomes from dog walking, most notably, feelings of “happiness”, but these were “contingent” on the perception that their dogs were enjoying the experience. Owner physical activity and social interaction were secondary bonuses but rarely motivating. Perceptions and beliefs of owners about dog walking were continually negotiated, depending on how the needs of the owner and dog were constructed at that time. Complex social interactions with the “significant other” of a pet can strongly motivate human health behaviour. Potential interventions to promote dog walking need to account for this complexity and the effect of the dog-owner relationship on owner mental wellbeing.

Concepts: Psychology, Understanding, Sociology, Mind, Behavior, Motivation, Social relation, Walking

90

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