Common and Distinct Neural Mechanisms of the Fundamental Dimensions of Social Cognition

Mengfei Han, Chongzeng Bi, Oscar Ybarra

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In the present study, we used a valence classification task to investigate the common and distinct neural basis of the two fundamental dimensions of social cognition (agency and communion) using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). The results showed that several brain areas associated with mentalizing, along with the inferior parietal gyrus in the mirror system, showed overlap in response to both agentic and communal words. These findings suggest that both content categories are related to the neural basis of social cognition; further, several areas in the default mode network (DMN) showed similar deactivations between agency and communion, reflecting task-induced deactivation (TID). In terms of distinct activations, the findings indicated greater deactivations for communal than agentic content in the ventral anterior cingulate (vACC) and medial orbitofrontal cortex (mOFC). Communion also showed greater activation in some visual areas compared to agentic content, including occipital gyrus, lingual gyrus, and fusiform gyrus. These activations may reflect greater allocation of attentional resources to visual areas when processing communal content, or inhibition of cognitive activity irrelevant to task performance. If so, this suggests greater attention and engagement with communion-related content. The present research thus suggests common and differential activations for agency- versus communion-related content.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)395-408
Number of pages14
JournalSocial Neuroscience
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 3 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Agency
  • Communion
  • Fundamental dimensions
  • Mentalizing
  • Social cognition

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Development
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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