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J Cogn Neurosci. 2004 Jul-Aug;16(6):988-99.

How would you feel versus how do you think she would feel? A neuroimaging study of perspective-taking with social emotions.


Perspective-taking is a complex cognitive process involved in social cognition. This positron emission tomography (PET) study investigated by means of a factorial design the interaction between the emotional and the perspective factors. Participants were asked to adopt either their own (first person) perspective or the (third person) perspective of their mothers in response to situations involving social emotions or to neutral situations. The main effect of third-person versus first-person perspective resulted in hemodynamic increase in the medial part of the superior frontal gyrus, the left superior temporal sulcus, the left temporal pole, the posterior cingulate gyrus, and the right inferior parietal lobe. A cluster in the postcentral gyrus was detected in the reverse comparison. The amygdala was selectively activated when subjects were processing social emotions, both related to self and other. Interaction effects were identified in the left temporal pole and in the right postcentral gyrus. These results support our prediction that the frontopolar, the somatosensory cortex, and the right inferior parietal lobe are crucial in the process of self/other distinction. In addition, this study provides important building blocks in our understanding of social emotion processing and human empathy.

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