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      How embarrassing! The behavioral and neural correlates of processing social norm violations

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          Abstract

          Social norms are important for human social interactions, and violations of these norms are evaluated partly on the intention of the actor. Here, we describe the revised Social Norm Processing Task (SNPT-R), a paradigm enabling the study of behavioral and neural responses to intended and unintended social norm violations among both adults and adolescents. We investigated how participants (adolescents and adults, n = 87) rate intentional and unintentional social norm violations with respect to inappropriateness and embarrassment, and we examined the brain activation patterns underlying the processing of these transgressions in an independent sample of 21 adults using functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI). We hypothesized to find activation within the medial prefrontal cortex, temporo-parietal cortex and orbitofrontal cortex in response to both intentional and unintentional social norm violations, with more pronounced activation for the intentional social norm violations in these regions and in the amygdala. Participants’ ratings confirmed the hypothesis that the three types of stories are evaluated differently with respect to intentionality: intentional social norm violations were rated as the most inappropriate and most embarrassing. Furthermore, fMRI results showed that reading stories on intentional and unintentional social norm violations evoked activation within the frontal pole, the paracingulate gyrus and the superior frontal gyrus. In addition, processing unintentional social norm violations was associated with activation in, among others, the orbitofrontal cortex, middle frontal gyrus and superior parietal lobule, while reading intentional social norm violations was related to activation in the left amygdala. These regions have been previously implicated in thinking about one’s self, thinking about others and moral reasoning. Together, these findings indicate that the SNPT-R could serve as a useful paradigm for examining social norm processing, both at the behavioral and the neural level.

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          Most cited references49

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          Functional imaging of 'theory of mind'

          Our ability to explain and predict other people's behaviour by attributing to them independent mental states, such as beliefs and desires, is known as having a 'theory of mind'. Interest in this very human ability has engendered a growing body of evidence concerning its evolution and development and the biological basis of the mechanisms underpinning it. Functional imaging has played a key role in seeking to isolate brain regions specific to this ability. Three areas are consistently activated in association with theory of mind. These are the anterior paracingulate cortex, the superior temporal sulci and the temporal poles bilaterally. This review discusses the functional significance of each of these areas within a social cognitive network.
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            Social anxiety disorder.

            Our understanding of social anxiety disorder (also known as social phobia) has moved from rudimentary awareness that it is not merely shyness to a much more sophisticated appreciation of its prevalence, its chronic and pernicious nature, and its neurobiological underpinnings. Social anxiety disorder is the most common anxiety disorder; it has an early age of onset--by age 11 years in about 50% and by age 20 years in about 80% of individuals--and it is a risk factor for subsequent depressive illness and substance abuse. Functional neuroimaging studies point to increased activity in amygdala and insula in patients with social anxiety disorder, and genetic studies are increasingly focusing on this and other (eg, personality trait neuroticism) core phenotypes to identify risk loci. A range of effective cognitive behavioural and pharmacological treatments for children and adults now exists; the challenges lie in optimum integration and dissemination of these treatments, and learning how to help the 30-40% of patients for whom treatment does not work.
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              The etiology of social phobia: empirical evidence and an initial model.

              Research into the etiology of social phobia has lagged far behind that of descriptive and maintaining factors. The current paper reviews data from a variety of sources that have some bearing on questions of the origins of social fears. Areas examined include genetic factors, temperament, childrearing, negative life events, and adverse social experiences. Epidemiological data are examined in detail and factors associated with social phobia such as cognitive distortions and social skills are also covered. The paper concludes with an initial model that draws together some of the current findings and aims to provide a platform for future research directions.
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                Author and article information

                Contributors
                Role: Editor
                Journal
                PLoS One
                PLoS ONE
                plos
                plosone
                PLoS ONE
                Public Library of Science (San Francisco, CA USA )
                1932-6203
                25 April 2017
                2017
                : 12
                : 4
                Affiliations
                [1 ]Institute of Psychology, Leiden University, Leiden, The Netherlands
                [2 ]Department of Psychiatry, Leiden University Medical Center, Leiden, The Netherlands
                [3 ]Leiden Institute for Brain and Cognition, Leiden, The Netherlands
                Mälardalen University, SWEDEN
                Author notes

                Competing Interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.

                • Conceptualization: JMBH PMW NJAvdW.

                • Data curation: JMBH HvS.

                • Formal analysis: JMBH TK HvS.

                • Funding acquisition: PMW NJAvdW.

                • Investigation: TK JMBH.

                • Project administration: JMBH.

                • Supervision: PMW NJAvdW.

                • Visualization: JMBH.

                • Writing – original draft: JMBH.

                • Writing – review & editing: PMW NJAvdW TK HvS.

                Article
                PONE-D-16-50404
                10.1371/journal.pone.0176326
                5404760
                28441460
                88f14a2e-105a-4082-aa00-f2ebe419493b
                © 2017 Bas-Hoogendam et al

                This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

                Page count
                Figures: 3, Tables: 4, Pages: 21
                Product
                Funding
                JMBH is funded by the Leiden University Research Profile ‘Health, Prevention and the Human Life Cycle’. The funding source had no involvement in study design, data collection, data analysis, writing this paper nor in the decision to submit this work for publication.
                Categories
                Research Article
                Biology and Life Sciences
                Behavior
                Biology and Life Sciences
                Anatomy
                Brain
                Amygdala
                Medicine and Health Sciences
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                Neuroscience
                Brain Mapping
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                Biology and Life Sciences
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                Research and Analysis Methods
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                Custom metadata
                Behavioral data are within the paper and its Supporting Information files. Furthermore, the code for presenting the task, the analysis code and the behavioral and imaging data are available from osf.io/pt4qt (DOI: 10.17605/OSF.IO/PT4QT). In addition, imaging data are uploaded to the NeuroVault repository: http://neurovault.org/collections/QCZKVNWZ/.

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