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Social Cognitive Neuroscience


Entry requirements

Only open to MSc Psychology (research) students.


Social cognitive neuroscience is an emerging scientific discipline that attempts to integrate the theories, methods and insights of cognitive psychology, social cognition and cognitive neuroscience. This course is intended to review and discuss state-of-the-art developments in this area, covering issues like cooperation, communication, sexual attraction, imitation, the recognition of affect, and music cognition.

Each course meeting aims to provide a deeper insight into the theoretical background of a current research interest – with an emphasis on controversies – and will be based on three journal articles, which either review a substantial body of recent research or make strong statements reflecting the different perspectives on the particular issue. On the basis of further reading assignments, each student will orally present at least one paper (using Power Point), write a blog, and prepare a research proposal, which consists of a critical review of the literature relevant to the chosen topic and recommendations for future research.

Course objectives

Upon completion of the course, students will have acquired three skills that are essential for experimental researchers working in the area of cognitive neuroscience, namely, they will be able:

  • to distinguish between, and debate about methodological and theoretical developments in the area of social cognitive neuroscience;

  • to develop, communicate, and defend their own opinions;

  • to generate new research ideas and effectively design studies to test those ideas.


For the timetable of this course please refer to MyTimetable



Students must register themselves for all course components (lectures, tutorials and practicals) they wish to follow. You can register up to 5 days prior to the start of the course.

Exams (if applicable)

You must register for each exam in My Studymap at least 10 days before the exam date. You cannot take an exam without a valid registration in My Studymap. Carefully read all information about the procedures and deadlines for registering for courses and exams.

Exchange students and external guest students will be informed by the education administration about the current registration procedure.

Mode of instruction

7 2-hour work group sessions.

Assessment method

The assessment is based on:

  • 25% presentation and discussion-leading;

  • 60% individual research proposal;

  • 15% blog.

The Institute of Psychology follows the policy of the Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences to systematically check student papers for plagiarism with the help of software. All students are required to take and pass the Scientific Integrity Test with a score of 100% in order to learn about the practice of integrity in scientific writing. Students are given access to the quiz via a module on Brightspace. Disciplinary measures will be taken when fraud is detected. Students are expected to be familiar with and understand the implications of this fraud policy.

Reading list

1. Introduction

Key paper:

  • Stanley, D.A., & Adolphs, R. (2013). Toward a neural basis for social behavior.
    Neuron, 80, 816-826.

Paper for Presentation by students:

  • Lieberman, M. D. (2012). A geographical history of social cognitive neuroscience. Neuroimage, 61, 432-436.

  • Lockwood, P. L., Apps, M. A., & Chang, S. W. (2020). Is there a ‘social’ brain? Implementations and algorithms. Trends in Cognitive Sciences

2. Mimicry and synchrony

Key paper:

  • Lakin, J. L. (2013). Behavioral mimicry and interpersonal synchrony. In J. A. Hall & M. L. Knapp (Eds.), Nonverbal communication (pp. 539-575). De Gruyter Mouton.

Paper for Presentation by students:

  • Behrens, F., Snijdewint, J.A., Moulder, R.G. et al. Physiological synchrony is associated with cooperative success in real-life interactions. Scientific Reports, 10, 19609 (2020).

  • Chanel, G., Kivikangas, J.M., Ravaja, N. (2012). Physiological compliance for social gaming analysis: Cooperative versus competitive play, Interacting with Computers24, 4, 306-311.

3. Cooperation

Key paper:

  • Henrich, J., & Muthukrishna, M. (2021). The origins and psychology of human cooperation. Annual Review of Psychology, 72, 207-240.

Papers for Presentation by students:

  • Tomasello, M., Melis, A. P., Tennie, C., Wyman, E., & Herrmann, E. (2012). Two key steps in the evolution of human cooperation: The interdependence hypothesis. Current anthropology, 53(6), 673-692.

  • Izuma, K. (2012). The social neuroscience of reputation. Neuroscience research, 72(4), 283-288.

4. Attraction

Key paper:

  • Farris, C., Treat, T. A., Viken, R. J., & McFall, R. M. (2008). Sexual coercion and the misperception of sexual intent. Clinical psychology review, 28(1), 48-66.

Papers for Presentation by students:

  • Roth, T.S., Samara, I., Perea-Garcia, J.O., Kret, M.E. (2023). Individual attractiveness preferences differentially modulate immediate and voluntary attention. Scientific Reports 13, 2147.

  • Pátková, Ž., Schwambergová, D., Třebická Fialová, J., Třebický, V., Stella, D., Kleisner, K., & Havlíček, J. (2022). Attractive and healthy-looking male faces do not show higher immunoreactivity. Scientific Reports, 12(1), 18432.

5. Communication

Key paper:

  • Falk, E., & Scholz, C. (2018). Persuasion, influence, and value: Perspectives from communication and social neuroscience. Annual review of psychology, 69, 329-356.

Papers for Presentation by students:

  • Dunbar, R. I. (2003). The social brain: mind, language, and society in evolutionary perspective. Annual review of Anthropology, 32(1), 163-181.

  • Catani, M., & Bambini, V. (2014). A model for social communication and language evolution and development (SCALED). Current opinion in neurobiology, 28, 165-171.

6. Clinical disorders and self-other distinction

Key paper:

  • Eddy, C. M. (2022). The Transdiagnostic relevance of self-other distinction to psychiatry spans emotional, cognitive and motor domains. Frontiers in Psychiatry, 13, 797952.

Papers for Presentation by students:

  • Schuwerk, T., & Sodian, B. (2023). Differences in self‐other control as cognitive mechanism to characterize theory of mind reasoning in autistic and non‐autistic adults. Autism Research.

  • Finlayson-Short, L., Harrison, B. J., & Davey, C. (2021). Self-other referential neural processing in social anxiety disorder and major depressive disorder. NeuroImage: Clinical, 30, 102669.

7. Music

Key paper:

  • Savage, P. E., Loui, P., Tarr, B., Schachner, A., Glowacki, L., Mithen, S., & Fitch, W. T. (2021). Music as a coevolved system for social bonding. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 44, e59.

Papers for Presentation by students:

  • Mehr, S. A., Krasnow, M. M., Bryant, G. A., & Hagen, E. H. (2021). Origins of music in credible signaling. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 44, e60.

  • Stupacher, J., Maes, P.-J., Witte, M., & Wood, G. (2017). Music strengthens prosocial effects of interpersonal synchronization – If you move in time with the beat. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 72, 39-44.

Suggested optional reading:

  • Commentaries on Savage et al. and Mehr et al., which can be found here.

Contact information

Prof. dr. M.E. Kret (Mariska)