Being able to infer the thoughts, feelings and intentions of those around us is indispensable in order to function in a social world. Despite growing interest in social cognition and its neural underpinnings, the factors that contribute to successfulmental state attribution remain unclear. Current knowledge is limited because themostwidely used tasks suffer fromtwomain constraints: (i) They fail to capture individual variability due to ceiling effects and (ii) they use highly simplistic, often artificial stimuli inapt tomirror real-world socio-cognitive demands. In the present study, we address these problems by employing complex depictions of naturalistic social interactions that vary in both valence (positive vs negative) and ambiguity (high vs low). Thirty-eight healthy participants (20 female)mademental state judgmentswhile brain responseswere obtained using functionalmagnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). Accuracy varied based on valence and ambiguity conditions andwomenwere more accurate thanmenwith highly ambiguous social stimuli. Activity of the orbitofrontal cortex predicted performance in the high ambiguity condition. The results shed light on subtle differences inmentalizing abilities and associated neural activity.
Research Areas and Centers
- Academic Focus: Center for Brain, Behavior and Metabolism (CBBM)