The Implications of Social Neuroscience for Expectation States Theories



We review recent findings from the social neuroscience literature that links status differentiation between individuals to neurological processes, and draw out the implications of those findings for expectation states theories, including its dominant theory of status-organizing processes – Status Characteristics Theory. Our underlying assumption and implicit argument is that social neuroscience research is useful for both bolstering and corroborating some core sociological claims. In addition, it sheds light on some of the ongoing theoretical debates within sociology. We highlight and discuss the following four social neuroscience findings: 1) Neural activity varies depending on whether an individual is interacting with someone of a lower, equal, or higher status; 2) There is an interplay between status and affect such that status processes may promote the control of emotional reactions; 3) Both men and women are neurologically attuned to high status opposite sex conspecifics; and, 4) Status differences are processed in the same region of the brain as numerical or size differences, and this region is responsible for the coding of information along continuous dimensions. The implications of these points are discussed with respect to sociological theories.