Effects of Damage to Right-Hemisphere Brain Structures on Spontaneous Emotional and Social Judgments



Recent work in cognitive and social neuroscience has focused on the neural substrates of social judgment. The present study explores the effects of damage to the right-hemisphere somatosensory cortices (RSS), a region known for its role in emotion recognition. Seven subjects with RSS damage were shown a short movie depicting objects that move in socially suggestive ways, a stimulus that typically elicits spontaneous social and emotional attributions from normal subjects. The spontaneous verbal responses of RSS-damaged subjects to this movie were compared to those of normal subjects as well as brain-damaged control subjects; the data were derived using a word count and categorization computer program. This method measures spontaneous social and emotional judgments rather than the more typical rating and labeling measures used in neuropsychological studies of social judgment. As predicted, relative to brain-damaged and normal controls, subjects with RSS damage reacted to the stimulus movie with fewer words in categories describing emotional and social processes, despite using a similar total number of words (and slightly more words describing movement, a control category). These results provide further evidence for the role of the RSS in social/emotional processing and identify a role for the RSS in automatic representation in ourselves of body states of others to foster emotion recognition and social cognition.