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A central assumption that underpins much of the discussion of the role played by social cognition in brain evolution is that social cognition is unusually cognitively demanding. This assumption has never been tested. Here, we use a task in which participants read stories and then answered questions about the stories in a behavioural experiment (39 participants) and an fMRI experiment (17 participants) to show that mentalising requires more time for responses than factual memory of a matched complexity and also that higher orders of mentalising is disproportionately more demanding and requires the recruitment of more neurons in brain regions known to be associated with theory of mind, including insula, posterior STS, temporal pole, and cerebellum. These results have significant implications both for models of brain function and for models of brain evolution.

Original publication

DOI

10.1093/scan/nsx034

Type

Journal article

Journal

Soc Cogn Affect Neurosci

Publication Date

13/03/2017

Keywords

fMRI, intentionality, mentalising, reaction time, social brain