How do we navigate challenging social situations?
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 cognitive and neural 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 forms of working memory may preferentially recruit a medial frontoparietal network (or 'default network') that is thought to interfere 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. PDF.
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. PDF.
Meyer, M. L. & Lieberman, M. D. (2012). Social working memory: Neurocognitive networks and directions for future research. Frontiers in Psychology, 3, 1-11. PDF.