Social neuroscience: challenges and opportunities in the study of complex behavior


Address for correspondence: John Cacioppo, Center for Cognitive and Social Neuroscience, University of Chicago, 5848 S. University Avenue, Chicago, IL 60637.


Social species are so characterized because they form organizations that extend beyond the individual. The goal of social neuroscience is to investigate the biological mechanisms that underlie these social structures, processes, and behavior and the influences between social and neural structures and processes. Such an endeavor is challenging because it necessitates the integration of multiple levels. Mapping across systems and levels (from genome to social groups and cultures) requires interdisciplinary expertise, comparative studies, innovative methods, and integrative conceptual analysis. Examples of how social neuroscience is contributing to our understanding of the functions of the brain and nervous system are described, and societal implications of social neuroscience are considered.