The August 2006 issue of Nature
Neuroscience includes a study by
Leah Somerville, Todd Heatherton and William Kelley (all at
But according to Somerville, Heatherton and Kelley, this result confounds social rejection and expectancy violation: an analysis of the neural activity that occurred when the subject faced rejection cannot differentiate the effects associated these two potentially separate triggers. They eliminate this confound by implementing a task that isolates social rejection from expectancy violation. According to their results, the dACC was responsive to expectancy violation, while the vACC was responsive to social rejection.
This Social Rejection v. Expectancy Violation question seems to parallel the Trust v. Risk debate that has recently received academic attention. In both cases, a social phenomenon essentially serves as a baseline to which a superficially equivalent non-social phenomenon is compared. And in both cases, the perception of social-non-social equivalence is shattered by imaging studies.
Thus, the results that show how the brain treats the decision to trust differently than the decision to take risks can be categorized with those of Sommerville, Heatherton and Kelley. I am interested to know the extent to which this category can be (or will be) expanded. Are there other social emotions that have been (or will be) separated from related non-social analogues? Any ideas?