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Whether on a first date or during a team briefing at work, people’s daily lives are inundated with social information, and in recent years, researchers have begun studying the neural mechanisms that support social-information processing. We argue that the focus of social neuroscience research to date has been skewed toward specialized processes at the expense of general processing mechanisms with a consequence that unrealistic expectations have been set for what specialized processes alone can achieve. We propose that for social neuroscience to develop into a more mature research program, it needs to embrace hybrid models that integrate specialized person representations with domain-general solutions, such as prioritization and selection, which operate across all classes of information (both social and nonsocial). To illustrate our central arguments, we first describe and then evaluate a hybrid model of information processing during social interactions that (a) generates novel and falsifiable predictions compared with existing models; (b) is predicated on a wealth of neurobiological evidence spanning many decades, methods, and species; (c) requires a superior standard of evidence to substantiate domain-specific mechanisms of social behavior; and (d) transforms expectations of what types of neural mechanisms may contribute to social-information processing in both typical and atypical populations.


  • social neuroscience, social cognition, person perception, domain specificity, priority maps, biased competition
Original languageEnglish
JournalPerspectives on Psychological Science
Early online date8 Jun 2020
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 8 Jun 2020

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