Biological Explanations Of Social Cognition – Tasks

What is the evidence for the importance of the prefrontal cortex in social cognition?

Use Sarah-Jayne Blakemore’s TED Talk as your source. Your resources booklet contains a transcript of the part which answers this question.

To answer this question, you need to focus on:-

What MRI studies looking at the development of the pre-frontal cortex during the period of adolescence have shown (resources booklet page 20)

What happens to activity in the medial prefrontal cortex area during the period of adolescence when participants are attempting tasks that involve thinking about other people, their minds, their mental states and their emotions. (resources booklet page 21)

Differences between the mid-adolescent group and the adult group on director/no director tasks. (resources booklet page 22)

Extension: Sarah-Jayne Blakemore has recently given a lecture of the Royal Society which you can see here or via my dropbox folder. In it she goes into more detail on some of the research in her TED lecture and answers questions from the audience. Watch as much as you can to deepen your understanding of her research.

Is development of social cognition a product of nature or nurture?

Use the TED talk. The crucial section is at the top of page 21 of your resources booklet.

Extension: One of Blakemore’s PhD students, Kathryn Mills, talks about the adolescent brain and how it may be influenced by social networking in this lecture here. You can also view this video via my dropbox folder.


What is the evidence for the presence of mirror neurons in humans?

Use the summary of the study by Mukamel et al (2010) in the resources booklet page 23. See also

Make sure you can describe





Extension: read Mo Costandi’s article (resources booklet page 25). The 2010 article he refers to is the one by Mukamel (see above). What are the limitations of Mukamel’s study? What are the limitations of other claims about mirror neurons?

Is the broken mirror hypothesis a good explanation of why some people have autism?

Watch the video: Mirror Neurons And Autism

Read Mo Costandi’s article (resources booklet page 25)

Write down the assumptions on which the broken mirror hypothesis of autism are based.


i) Use Mo Costandi’s article and the abstract of Southgate and Hamilton (resources booklet page 26) to explain why the broken mirror hypothesis may not be correct. Read this interview with Vilayamur S. Ramachandran on the broken mirror hypothesis.

ii) Watch Vilayamur S. Ramachandran’s TED lecture to understand more about the link between mirror neurons and the development of human culture.

Add A Comment

The learning objective for this sequence is to observe the work of researchers as role models of scientific enquiry. Ask yourself what you think these researchers have done well and where limitations have been identified. Remember that evaluation is not just something we ask you to do to pass an exam but is the very essence of scientific enquiry. Write a comment of no more than 200 words explaining your thoughts.

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