The human ability to comprehend and respond to the behaviour of others is essential for us to survive and to thrive, and deficits in our capacity to be social have profound effects on quality of life. Moreover, social disabilities are emerging as one of the most significant societal and economic challenges of our time, with incidence set to rise. In particular, there are around 50 million cases of dementia worldwide, and an ageing population means that numbers are increasing. As clinical trials of medically-oriented treatments have had limited success, there has been a rising emphasis on behavioural approaches to treating dementia and an urgent requirement for the development of cognitive models that inform interventions for social disorders.
In the last two decades, the cognitive sciences have made significant advances in our understanding of social processes. However, there has been an emphasis on perceptual aspects of social cognition and much less is understood about the processes that regulate our expressive social behaviours. Therefore, the overarching aim of this project is to increase our understanding of the executive control processes engaged in social cognition. We will approach this objective via experimental psychological techniques in tandem with cognitive neuroscience techniques that test the relevance of our cognitive manipulations to the brain systems underpinning behaviour and, therefore, their validity. The hope is that advancing this understanding will prove invaluable for patient and caregiver education about the nature and trajectories of social disorders and will drive innovation in cognitive rehabilitation and social care practices.