Social Neuroscience: Brain, Mind, and Society

Social Neuroscience: Brain, Mind, and Society PDF

Author: Russell K. Schutt and Larry J. Seidman

Publisher: Harvard University Press


Publish Date: June 9, 2015

ISBN-10: 0674728971

Pages: 448

File Type: PDF

Language: English

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Book Preface

The development of social neuroscience at the end of the twentieth century is engaging the disciplines of psychiatry, psychology, and neuroscience with the concerns about social relations on which sociologists have traditionally focused, while it is also starting to reengage the discipline of sociology with the fi eld of biology after a hiatus of one hundred years. As it does so, social neuroscience is also creating a basis for connecting these disciplines and the other social and clinical sciences within a common paradigm for understanding human sociality. The result has been an avalanche of articles, a profusion of books, and the funding of interdisciplinary research projects of breathtaking scope.

We have observed these developments from the complementary vantage points of our respective core disciplines— psychiatry (Keshavan), psychology (Seidman), and sociology (Schutt)— and have found that social neuroscience allows us to overcome the polarities that have so often driven our disciplines apart: reductionism or emergence, biology or society, free will or determinism. We have participated in and contributed to these developments with research agendas that increasingly intersect: the emergence of psychosis in young people (Seidman and Keshavan); the neurobiology of the brain (Keshavan and Seidman); the impact of the social environment (Schutt, Seidman, and Keshavan). We have learned that social neuroscience is improving our understanding of people and their social world as well as generating more effective treatments for psychiatric illness and more promising directions for social policy. Paradoxically, the deepening impact of the molecular biological revolution on psychiatry has increased appreciation of nonbiological psychosocial treatment by demonstrating the impact of such treatment on the brain and illuminating how environmental factors interact with ge ne tic susceptibilities.

It is not that major controversies have been resolved or that the most important research has been completed. Rather, it is time for taking stock of what has been learned, how our disciplines can best collaborate, and where research should next focus. It was for these purposes that we or ganized an interdisciplinary seminar at Harvard’s Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study in March 2011. With generous funding from Radcliffe, we were able to bring together some of the leading researchers in our disciplines who are building the knowledge base of social neuroscience. This book emerged from pre sen ta tions at the Radcliffe seminar and the inspiration it provided to reexamine progress to date.

Social neuroscience is growing so rapidly and reaching into so many disciplines that we could include only a small fraction of the leading researchers and a few of the key disciplines in our Radcliffe seminar. We have maintained a similar focused approach in this book, drawing attention to research in our own three disciplines. We have centered most applications on understanding schizophrenia—an illness in which social malfunction is a profound characteristic and that has been investigated for many years by the laboratories directed by Drs. Keshavan and Seidman. Although we do give attention to some other major mental health problems, including depression and psychosocial deprivation, a full coverage of psychosocial aspects across the areas of psychiatry is beyond the scope of this work. We have likewise not attempted to include in our history of the emergence of social neuroscience (Chapters 1, 2, 6, and 10) the bases for our differences with sociobiology and evolutionary psychology or an analysis of the controversy between those approaches and the multilevel (group) selection theory that we favor. We also have not included contributions from the cognate fields of neuroanthropology, neuropolitics, or neuroeconomics, although neurosociology is well represented in Jonathan H. Turner’s chapter. From our perspective, social neuroscience can best be understood as a broad interdisciplinary approach that encompasses all of these “neuro” specialties.

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