What is our fundamental social nature?

As a social species, humans create emergent organizations beyond the individual—structures that range from dyads, families, and groups to cities, civilizations, and international alliances. These emergent structures evolved hand in hand with neural, hormonal, cellular, and genetic mechanisms to support them because the consequent social behaviors helped humans survive and reproduce. John Cacioppo investigates these mechanisms and their effect on cognition, emotion, behavior, and health—an approach that, in 1992, he termed social neuroscience.



Current Research


Other Big Questions

How do people distinguish between hostile and hospitable stimuli and events?

This is the most basic information processing operation performed by the central nervous system, often with synergistic effects, but occasionally with antagonistic effects. At the lowest level of the central nervous system, this operation is fixed and is called a reflex. At the highest level, this operation is malleable and includes preferences, beliefs, opinions, and attitudes.

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How do we know what we know?

How can we infer the psychological significance from physiological signals? More generally, how can we infer the conceptual significance of empirical data? These basic questions are special cases of the bigger question of how we know what we (think we) know?

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How does stress damage our bodies?

A stressor refers to a stimulus and event to which a person is subjected, whereas stress refers to the person’s appraisal of that stimulus or event. The person’s brain is the central organ for this appraisal, and the nature of this appraisal can influence, and be influenced by, a person’s body and biology.

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What is an emotion?

This question is so intriguing because of the larger question upon which it also bears: How much of a person’s conscious experience can be trusted to reflect anything valid about the actual nature or basis of that experience?

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