What is Social Cognitive Neuroscience?

Social cognitive neuroscience (SCN) is an interdisciplinary field that asks questions about topics traditionally of interest to social psychologists (such as emotion regulation, attitude change, or stereotyping) using methods traditionally employed by cognitive neuroscientists (such as functional brain imaging and neuropsychological patient analysis). By integrating the theories and methods of its parent disciplines, SCN seeks to understand socioemotional phenomena in terms of interactions between the social (socioemotional cues, contexts, experiences, and behaviors), cognitive (information processing mechanisms), and neural (brain bases) levels of analysis (for discussion see Ochsner & Lieberman, 2001 or Ochsner, 2007). By contrast, social psychology emphasizes only the first and second, and cognitive neuroscience emphasizes the second and third, of these three levels. 

Spring 2006 saw the inception of a new Journal, Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience (SCAN), dedicated to publishing Social Cognitive Neuroscience research as well as work in allied areas such as Affective Neuroscience and Neuroeconomics.

Social Cognitive Neuroscience at Columbia University

The Social Cognitive Neuroscience Lab is located in Columbia University's Department of Psychology (MAP), which is located in the Morningside Heights Neighborhood of Manhattan’s Upper West Side  The lab shares research space with the laboratory of Ed Smith, director of the Cognitive Neuroimaging Lab.

Close by in the Department of Psychology are the labs of Hakwan Lau, Daphna Shohamy, and Dean Mobbs.  Together, these labs provide a unique research and training environment for researchers interested in studying the neural bases of social, cognitive and affective processes.

Functional imaging resources are available at the fMRI Research Center housed in the Neurological Institute of New York (upper left on map) on the campus of Columbia University 's medical school. Facilities for conducting TMS experiments are also available at the Center


The next annual meeting of the Social and Affective Neuroscience Society (SAN) will take place in San Francisco, April 12-13, 2013 with Elliot Berkman as the organizer.  This meeting will bring together scientists from all over the world who study the brain mechanisms underlying social and emotional behaviors.  Please visit the website of the Social and Affective Neuroscience Society for more information about this year’s conference, past meetings, and the society more generally.

In the past, the lab was one the organizer of the 2012 SAN meeting in New York City, as well as one of the co-organizers of the annual Social Cognitive Neuroscience Preconferences that preceded annual meetings of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology in January and annual meetings of the Cognitive Neuroscience Society in April. The preconferences brought together leading researchers conducting social cognitive neuroscience research investigating the neural systems supporting self perception, self-regulation, and person perception.

Sample Media and Scientific Articles about our Science

·         Study on the effects of Botox injections on emotional experience in USA Today and various local papers, including the Pittsburgh Post Gazette.

·         Emotion regulation work featured in Wired article on fear by John Lutz of 30 Rock.

·         Work on the regulation of craving in smokers on CNN.com.

·         Wall Street Journal article and a video that featuring our research on empathic accuracy.

·         Columbia record article on our research on empathic accuracy.

·         Appearance on and blog posting for CNBC’s, The Big Idea With Donny Deutsch.

·         Work on emotion regulation featured in the Wall Street Journal.

·        Article about relationship of our emotion regulation work to depression.

·         Science article about a study on the deliberate suppression of memories.

·        Articles from TICS and the APA Monitor about the early years of social cognitive neuroscience research.

·         NYAS Imaging Emotions eBriefing (A web version of talk given at NYAS in Feb 2005. To access, click "audio/slides" to the right of ENTER icon).


Social Cognitive Neuroscience Laboratory
Department of Psychology
Columbia University
1190 Amsterdam Avenue
New York City, NY 10027