Neural Representations of Belief Concepts: A Representational Similarity Approach to Social Semantics
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Contreras, Juan Manuel
Mitchell, Jason P.
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CitationLeshinskaya, Anna, Juan Manuel Contreras, Alfonso Caramazza, and Jason P. Mitchell. 2017. “Neural Representations of Belief Concepts: A Representational Similarity Approach to Social Semantics.” Cerebral Cortex, January. https://doi.org/10.1093/cercor/bhw401.
AbstractThe present experiment identified neural regions that represent a class of concepts that are independent of perceptual or sensory attributes. During functional magnetic resonance imaging scanning, participants viewed names of social groups (e.g. Atheists, Evangelicals, and Economists) and performed a one-back similarity judgment according to 1 of 2 dimensions of belief attributes: political orientation (Liberal to Conservative) or spiritualism (Spiritualist to Materialist). By generalizing across a wide variety of social groups that possess these beliefs, these attribute concepts did not coincide with any specific sensory quality, allowing us to target conceptual, rather than perceptual, representations. Multi-voxel pattern searchlight analysis was used to identify regions in which activation patterns distinguished the 2 ends of both dimensions: Conservative from Liberal social groups when participants focused on the political orientation dimension, and spiritual from Materialist groups when participants focused on the spiritualism dimension. A cluster in right precuneus exhibited such a pattern, indicating that it carries information about belief-attribute concepts and forms part of semantic memory-perhaps a component particularly concerned with psychological traits. This region did not overlap with the theory of mind network, which engaged nearby, but distinct, parts of precuneus. These findings have implications for the neural organization of conceptual knowledge, especially the understanding of social groups.
Citable link to this pagehttp://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:41384861
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