Studying the neurobiology of human social interaction: Making the case for ecological validity

Koen Hogenelst*, Robert A. Schoevers, Marije aan het Rot

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalEditorialAcademicpeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

With this commentary we make the case for an increased focus on the ecological validity of the measures used to assess aspects of human social functioning. Impairments in social functioning are seen in many types of psychopathology, negatively affecting the lives of psychiatric patients and those around them. Yet the neurobiology underlying abnormal social interaction remains unclear. As an example of human social neuroscience research with relevance to biological psychiatry and clinical psychopharmacology, this commentary discusses published experimental studies involving manipulation of the human brain serotonin system that included assessments of social behavior. To date, these studies have mostly been laboratory-based and included computer tasks, observations by others, or single-administration self-report measures. Most laboratory measures used so far inform about the role of serotonin in aspects of social interaction, but the relevance for real-life interaction is often unclear. Few studies have used naturalistic assessments in real life. We suggest several laboratory methods with high ecological validity as well as ecological momentary assessment, which involves intensive repeated measures in naturalistic settings. In sum, this commentary intends to stimulate experimental research on the neurobiology of human social interaction as it occurs in real life.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)219-229
Number of pages11
JournalSocial neuroscience
Volume10
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 4-May-2015

Keywords

  • Neurobiology
  • Interpersonal
  • Social
  • Serotonin
  • Ecological validity
  • ACUTE TRYPTOPHAN DEPLETION
  • PERVASIVE DEVELOPMENTAL DISORDERS
  • FACIAL EXPRESSIONS
  • EMPATHIC ACCURACY
  • SEROTONERGIC INTERVENTION
  • ANTIDEPRESSANT TREATMENT
  • MOMENTARY ASSESSMENT
  • SELECTIVE SEROTONIN
  • HEALTHY-VOLUNTEERS
  • AUTISTIC DISORDER

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