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Full Access Interaction of embodied cognition and social perception in the primary somatosensory cortex

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Interaction of embodied cognition and social perception in the primary somatosensory cortex

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In the traditional view our brain represents the body in an area called the primary somatosensory cortex. An increasing body of evidence demonstrated that this brain region represents the perceived body image rather than reflecting mechanical stimulation on the body surface. It has been shown that the primary somatosensory cortex plays a role in multisensory integration of visuotactile stimuli, in empathy, and even in social perception. Here we want to further examine the role of the somatosensory cortices in social perception. We present results of an fMRI study showing how incidental touch sensations influence social judgments in a metaphor-specific way. Participants experienced rough or smooth touch before being asked to judge an ambiguous social interaction. Results revealed that rough touch made social interactions appear more difficult and adversarial, consistent with a rough metaphor (compared with smooth touch or no touch). This impact of tactile cues on social impressions was accompanied by a network including primary somatosensory cortex, amygdala, hippocampus and right inferior prefrontal cortex. Hence, receiving touch from a rough object seems to trigger the application of associated ontological concepts (or scaffolds) even for unrelated people and situations (but not to unrelated or more general feelings). Since this priming was based on somatosensory brain areas, our results provide support for the theory that sensorimotor grounding is intrinsic to cognitive processes.

Affiliations: 1: University of Magdeburg, Germany

In the traditional view our brain represents the body in an area called the primary somatosensory cortex. An increasing body of evidence demonstrated that this brain region represents the perceived body image rather than reflecting mechanical stimulation on the body surface. It has been shown that the primary somatosensory cortex plays a role in multisensory integration of visuotactile stimuli, in empathy, and even in social perception. Here we want to further examine the role of the somatosensory cortices in social perception. We present results of an fMRI study showing how incidental touch sensations influence social judgments in a metaphor-specific way. Participants experienced rough or smooth touch before being asked to judge an ambiguous social interaction. Results revealed that rough touch made social interactions appear more difficult and adversarial, consistent with a rough metaphor (compared with smooth touch or no touch). This impact of tactile cues on social impressions was accompanied by a network including primary somatosensory cortex, amygdala, hippocampus and right inferior prefrontal cortex. Hence, receiving touch from a rough object seems to trigger the application of associated ontological concepts (or scaffolds) even for unrelated people and situations (but not to unrelated or more general feelings). Since this priming was based on somatosensory brain areas, our results provide support for the theory that sensorimotor grounding is intrinsic to cognitive processes.

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/content/journals/10.1163/22134808-000s0073
2013-05-16
2016-12-08

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