Course Syllabus

Social Brain: Neuropsychology of Social Behaviors

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Front pic social brain.jpg

Semester & Location:

Summer 2022 - DIS Copenhagen/Stockholm

Type & Credits:

Core/Elective Course - 3 credits

Major Disciplines:

Human Development, NeurosciencePsychology


One course in neuroscience, physiological psychology, or biological psychology at university level.

Faculty Members:

Angela Mastropasqua (current students please contact via the Canvas Inbox)

Program Director:

Suman Ambwani

Program Contact: 

Time & Place:

Time: See course calendar

Location: N7-C24

Description of Course

Pre-requisite: One semester of neuroscience, physiological psychology, or biological psychology course at university level.


Human beings are inherently social creatures, yet relatively little attention has been paid to social influences on the brain. The primary goal of this course will be to begin to explore social influences on the nervous system, including the neural basis of social interaction, and the neural basis of beliefs about our social world.  Contributions from social psychology and social neuroscience will be addressed and emphasis will be placed on analysis of primary literature investigating social, environmental, and cultural influences on human brain processes.  


Topics include: Evolution of the ‘social’ brain, the relationship of emotions, cognition and social behavior, theory of mind, the role of empathy and the social self.


Learning Objectives

By the end of this course, students will be able to:

1) Distinguish between the foci of social psychology and social neuroscience, as well as to understand how the disciplines complement and differ from each other

2) Learn how to analytically address topics within these fields in both written and verbal formats

3) Critically evaluate research within social neuroscience and consider applications in other contexts



Angela Mastropasqua: Ph.D. (Cognitive Neuroscience, Graduate School of Systemic Neuroscience, LMU Munich , 2020). M.Sc. (Psychology, University of Turin, 2013). B.A. (Psychological Sciences and Techniques, University of Bari, 2010). Research interest in higher brain functions studied with a multi-techniques approach, in particular combining non-invasive brain stimulation (NIBS) and neuroimaging. 




  1. Required Textbooks (available at DIS library): As this course draws on both social psychology and social neuroscience, materials will be provided from both disciplines.
  • Social Psychology Textbook: Hewstone, M., Stroebe, W., & Jonas, K. (2012). An introduction to Social Psychology (5th ed.). London: Blackwell.
  • Social Neuroscience Textbook: Ward (2017). The Student's Guide to Social Neuroscience (2nd ed.). Hove: Psychology Press.

2. Articles (on Canvas):

Adolphs, R. (2001). The neurobiology of social cognition. Current Opinion in Neurobiology, 11: pp. 231 239.

Carter, E. J. & Pelphrey, K. A. (2008). Friend or for? Brain systems involved in the perception of dynamic signals of menacing and friendly social approaches. Social Neuroscience 3(2): pp. 151-163.

Castelli, et al. (2002). Autism, Asperger Syndrome and brain mechanisms for the attribution of mental states to animated shapes. Brain 125: pp. 1839-1849.

Charpentier, C. J., & O’Doherty, J. P. (2018). The application of computational models to social neuroscience: promises and pitfalls. Social Neuroscience, 13(6), 637–647. 

Cheng (2010). Love hurts: An FMRI study. Neuroimage 51: pp: 923-929.

Corrigall, E. A., & Konrad, A. M. (2007). Gender Role Attitudes and Careers: A Longitudinal Study. Sex Roles, 56(11–12), 847–855. 

Deen, B., Koldewyn, K., Kanwisher, N., & Saxe, R. (2015). Functional Organization of Social Perception and Cognition in the Superior Temporal Sulcus. Cerebral Cortex, 25(11), 4596–4609.

Derks, B., Inzlicht, M., & Kang, S. (2008). The Neuroscience of Stigma and Stereotype Threat. Group Processes & Intergroup Relations, 11(2), 163–181.

Dunbar (2007). Evolution in the Social Brain. Science 317: pp. 1344-1347.

Ebner, N. C., Johnson, M. K., & Fischer, H. (2012). Neural Mechanisms of Reading Facial Emotions in Young and Older Adults. Frontiers in psychology, 3, 223.

Edelson, M., et al. (2011). Following the crowd: brain substrates of long-term memory conformity. Science, 1(333): pp. 108-111.

Eisenberger, et al. (2003) Does rejection hurt? Science, 302: pp. 290-292

Frith, U. & Frith, D. (2003). Development and neurophysiology of mentalizing. Phil. Trans. R. Soc. Lond. B.

Heatherton, T. F. (2011). Neuroscience of Self and Self-Regulation. Annual Review of Psychology, 62(1), 363–390.

Lovell, M. (2006). Caring for the elderly: changing perceptions and attitudes. In J Vasc Nurs. Mar;24(1):22-6.

McDermott, Fowler, & Christakis (2013). Breaking Up is Hard to Do, Unless Everyone Else is Doing it Too: Social Network Effects on Divorce in a Longitudinal Sample. In Soc Forces. 2013 92(2): 491–519.

Ochsner, K. N. & Lieberman, M. D. (2001). The emergence of social cognitive neuroscience. American Psychologist, 56: pp. 717-734.

Pitcher, D. (2014). Facial Expression Recognition Takes Longer in the Posterior Superior Temporal Sulcus than in the Occipital Face Area. Journal of Neuroscience, 34(27), 9173–9177.

Sato, W., & Uono, S. (2019). The atypical social brain network in autism: advances in structural and functional MRI studies. Current Opinion in Neurology, 32(4), 617–621.

Saxe, R., Schulz, L. E., & Jiang, Y. V. (2006). Reading minds versus following rules: Dissociating theory of mind and executive control in the brain. Social Neuroscience, 1(3–4), 284–298.

Schurz, M. (2020). Toward a hierarchical model of social cognition: A neuroimaging meta-analysis and integrative review of empathy and theory of mind. Psychological Bulletin, 147(3), 293.

Tso, I. F., Rutherford, S., Fang, Y., Angstadt, M., & Taylor, S. F. (2018). The “social brain” is highly sensitive to the mere presence of social information: An automated meta-analysis and an independent study. PLOS ONE, 13(5), e0196503.

Vogeley, K. & Fink, G. R. (2003). Neural correlates of the first-person-perspective. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 7: pp. 38-42.

Willingham, D. T., & Dunn, E. W. (2003). What neuroimaging and brain localization can do, cannot do and should not do for social psychology. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 85(4), 662–671.

Yoder, K. J., & Decety, J. (2018). The neuroscience of morality and social decision-making. Psychology, Crime & Law, 24(3), 279–295.

Zhu, et al. (2007). Neural basis of cultural influence on self-representation. NeuroImage 34: pp. 1310–1316.

Zilbovicius, M., Meresse, I., Chabane, N., Brunelle, F., Samson, Y., & Boddaert, N. (2006). Autism, the superior temporal sulcus and social perception. Trends in Neurosciences, 29(7), 359–366.


Field Studies

Observation Field Study: American vs. Danish Social Behavior: Compare and Contrast Social Interactions in Everyday´s Settings


Guest Lecturers

Dr. Simon Steinkamp 

"My research interests can be summarized as the computational modeling of brain and behavior, both separately and simultaneously, especially, testing mathematical and computational theories against experimental data. Right now, I am investigating, how human decision making and reward signaling in the brain changes under different wealth dynamics. Apart from that, I am interested in ways to make scientific research more open and reproducible and have a general interest in machine learning methods".


Approach to Teaching

The course will be taught with a dynamic where the students are expected to participate in an interactive way, by contributing with questions, opinions, and explanations. 


Expectations and Code of Conduct:

  • Laptops/Tablets/iPads are not allowed to be open in the classroom unless agreed upon for specified tasks such as article reading and/or for discussion purposes and/or note-taking. Cellular phones must be switched off during class.
  • Reading must be done prior to the class session.
  • Since class participation is a major component of the course, you will need to be present and participating to receive full credit. Your grade will be negatively affected by unexcused absences and lack of participation.
  • Remember to be in class on time!
  • Classroom etiquette includes being respectful of one another’s opinions, listen to others and enter a dialogue in a constructive manner


Class Representatives: Each semester DIS looks for class representatives to become an official spokesperson for their class group, addressing any concerns that may arise (in academic or related matters), suggesting improvements and coming up with new ideas. Class representatives are a great way for DIS faculty to ensure better and timelier feedback on their courses, assessments and teaching styles, and as such perform an invaluable role in connecting students’ needs with faculty instruction during term time. Class Representatives will be elected in class at the beginning of the semester.



  1. Attendance: You are expected to attend all DIS classes when scheduled.  If you miss multiple classes the Office of Academic Support, and the Director of Student Affairs will be notified and they will follow-up with you to make sure that all is well.  Absence will jeopardize your grade and your standing at DIS.  Allowances will be made in cases of illness, but in the case of multiple absences you will need to provide a doctor’s note.


  1. Academic Honesty, Plagiarism, and Violating the Rules of an Assignment: DIS expects that students abide by the highest standards of intellectual honesty in all academic work. DIS assumes that all students do their own work and credit all work or thought taken from others. Academic dishonesty will result in a final course grade of “F” and can result in dismissal. The students’ home universities will be notified. DIS reserves the right to request that written student assignments be turned in electronic form for submission to plagiarism detection software.  See the Academic Handbook for more information, or ask your instructor if you have questions.


  1. Extensions: There will be no extension, and no “do-overs” for any of the written assignments. If you for any reason need an extension, this must be arranged with the teacher prior to the assignment.


  1. Late Papers: Late papers will not be accepted, and will therefore be given a failing grade. If a prior agreement of extension is present, a late paper may be accepted. See previous section on extensions.


  1. Turning in Assignments: Assignments must be turned in by email and each email must be new, meaning assignments must not be turned in as a reply to a previous email. The heading of the email must contain the name of the assignment, and the group name (if applicable), example: Group questions theme 3, group 5. You will get a reply from me when I receive the email, if you do not get a reply that means I did not receive the email, and the assignment will, therefore, be viewed as not having been turned in. Regardless of the time of reply, the timestamp on the incoming email determines the turn-in time. E.g. if you are to turn in an assignment by midnight, I might not answer until the morning, but the timestamp of arrival will determine if the assignment was turned in on time.


  1. Policy for Students Who Arrive Late to Class: If you repeatedly arrive late for class, this will have a negative impact on your participation grade


Methods of Evaluation and Grading



Methods of Evaluation


How Evaluated

Percentage of Grade


Participation and Attendance





Group Presentation and group project





Discussion Questions





Individual paper








To be eligible for a passing grade in this class you must complete all of the assigned work.

Attendance and Participation (30%):

Since class participation is a major component of the course, you will need to be present and participating to receive full credit. Class participation is to be understood as:

  • critically evaluating the model/hypotheses suggested in readings
  • asking relevant questions that show understanding of the material – with tentative considerations and conclusions
  • being prepared for class and be ready to answer questions when asked
  • discussing implications as regards practical application and/or future research considerations
  • contributing to class activities


Group Presentation and Group project (20%):

Groups of approx. 2-4 students will be presenting a topic in class (ca. 20 min.), after which there will be ca. 20 min. discussion with the rest of the class, answering and discussing prepared questions and debate topics (see Discussion Questions below)

  • Contents should include (but not be limited to):
    • Introduction of the key issues of the topic
    • Method employed to investigate it
    • Identification and discussion of key findings/knowledge
    • Critique of methods and potentially of the findings
    • Examples/Applied cases

Discussion Questions (20%):

  • Each group of students not presenting must write out minimum two discussion questions/topics for each presentation. The questions must be submitted via Canvas no later than 11pm on the day before presentation is takes place. Late submissions will result in grade deduction. Each group must have a tentative answer ready for each of the questions posed to the presenting group, based on readings/reflective considerations. Questions are submitted per group, i.e. minimum two questions per group.


Individual paper (30%): Analysis/critique of peer reviewed article

5 pages (max) excluding title page and reference; all in APA-style

  • Introduction: contextualize the topic/selected issue from the paper that you would like to explore and your reason for doing so. Present issues as a question or questions you would like to answer
  • Summary of article (2/3 of a page max.): include (a) introduction of the key issues from the article, (b) method employed to investigate issue/s, (c) identification and discussion of key findings from the study (d) critique of method, findings and (e) implications of findings (research, practical application)
  • Critique/Analysis: g. why you agree/disagree with the paper, what you think the authors should/should have not included, what you think would be beneficial to have considered in the paper, other considerations/evaluations.
  • Conclusion: Summarize your main points and suggest possible, future directions.

To be eligible for a passing grade in this class you must complete all of the assigned work.


Academic Regulations  

Please make sure to read the Academic Regulations on the DIS website. There you will find regulations on:

Course Summary:

Date Details Due