Beyond the individual: How the brain reacts to social categories

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


In this dissertation we investigate how the human brain deals with social categories (e.g. plumbers,
elderly people, the Dutch, etc.), and how such categories influence brain regions specifically involved
in forming impressions of others.
The findings of three functional magnetic resonance imaging studies are presented along several
chapters. The first study attempts to answer whether the mentalizing network responds differently to
social categories compared to personality traits, during impression formation. Subsequently, the second
study investigates the neurolinguistic difference between social categories and personality traits,
respectively denoted as nouns and adjectives. Finally, in the third study we seek to discover which brain
regions are involved in the neural representation of social categories.
We finish by presenting some general conclusions, as well as a tentative theoretical model of the brain
regions involved in the impression formation process, some critical remarks regarding the applied
methodology, and suggestions for future research.
Date of Award9 Sep 2014
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorFrank Van Overwalle (Promotor) & Eva Van Den Bussche (Jury)


  • /

Cite this