Two-thirds of human socializing centers on exchanging information about people: their behaviors, thoughts, and traits. Yet, how we track the social information swarming our everyday lives remains largely unknown. Our research integrates social and cognitive neuroscience to understand what drives our tendency, ability, and need to think about the social world around us. We aim to answer questions such as: How do we juggle multiple social cognitive demands on the fly? How do we learn and consolidate information about the people and groups with whom we interact? Why do the negative and positive experiences with people from our past seem to linger with us, either by haunting us with pain or consuming us with nostalgia?
SOCIAL WORKING MEMORY
Everyday social cognition involves a great deal of information juggling. Just as an example, consider a social gathering where multiple people, with different backgrounds and relationships with one another, all converse. To smoothly navigate this social scenario, you will need to keep track of who said what, as well as why he or she said it. As the complexity and number of people in the situation increases, so will your need to manage social information in mind. How do we pull off such complex social information processing on the fly? In this line of research, we examine the brain mechanisms that support the moment-to-moment maintenance and manipulation of social cognitive information, or 'social working memory.' Our findings so far suggest that social cognitive forms of working memory may preferentially recruit a medial frontoparietal network (or 'default network') that otherwise interferes with non-social forms of working memory.
Meyer, M. L., Spunt, R. P., Berkman, E. T., Taylor, S. E., & Lieberman, M. D. (2012). Evidence for social working memory from a parametric functional MRI study. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 109, 1883-1888.
Meyer, M. L. & Lieberman, M. D. (2012). Social working memory: Neurocognitive networks and directions for future research. Frontiers in Psychology, 3, 1-11.
Meyer, M. L., Taylor, S. E., & Lieberman, M.D. (2015). Social working memory and its distinctive link to social cognitive ability: An fMRI study. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience.
SOCIAL COGNITION AND THE DEFAULT NETWORK