Recent progress in cognitive neuroscience highlights the involvement of the prefrontal cortex (PFC) in social cognition. Accumulating evidence demonstrates that representations within the lateral PFC enable people to coordinate their thoughts and actions with their intentions to support goal-directed social behavior. Despite the importance of this region in guiding social interactions, remarkably little is known about the functional organization and forms of social inference processed by the lateral PFC. Here, we introduce a cognitive neuroscience framework for understanding the inferential architecture of the lateral PFC, drawing upon recent theoretical developments in evolutionary psychology and emerging neuroscience evidence about how this region can orchestrate behavior on the basis of evolutionarily adaptive social norms for obligatory, prohibited and permissible courses of action.
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