Connectionist simulation as a tool for understanding social cognition and neuroscience

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Connectionist simulations are a very important and powerful tool for theorizing about how we, as humans, understand and interact with other people, and how these processes operate in the human brain. Although verbal descriptions of these underlying social processes are often necessary in the beginning stages of theoretical development, researchers are well aware that these processes are implemented in a human brain so that verbal interpretations only provide a shallow description. Ultimately, we need more sophisticated methodologies to dig deeper into the neural mechanism that that give rise to our social capacities. Connectionist computer simulations, which are loosely based on the fundamental working mechanisms of the brain, are at present perhaps the best theoretical tools to advance this understanding. Even the growing knowledge on the working of the social brain that modern brain imaging techniques bring to us will only degrade to mere "brain spotting" (i.e., looking for color spots reflecting increased brain activation resulting from current scanning techniques) unless we make attempts for a more fundamental understanding of what is going on in the brain areas that show such increased activation. Because connectionist models demonstrate how simple, brain-like mechanisms may give rise to complex social behavior, they may provide a common framework integrating behavioral social functioning with neural activation, in a field of social psychology that is currently replete with many ad-hoc, fragmentary and unrelated theories that hamper the building up of a broad unified social theory.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationCognitive Methods in Social Psychology
EditorsK. C. Klauer, C. Stahl, A. Voss
PublisherGuilford Press: NY, New York
Number of pages449
ISBN (Print)978-1-60623-015-2
Publication statusPublished - 2011

Bibliographical note

K. C. Klauer, C. Stahl, A. Voss


  • social connectionism
  • social cognition


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