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Novartis Found Symp. 2007;278:146-59; discussion 160-4, 216-21.

Looking at other people: mechanisms for social perception revealed in subjects with focal amygdala damage.

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Division of Humanities and Social Sciences, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA 91125, USA.


How does the presence of socially relevant information in the environment influence our perception and judgment of other people? We have investigated how we direct our gaze to other people's faces, how we use specific features from faces to make social judgments about the presumed internal states of others, and how these mechanisms are disrupted following pathology. Studies of patients with damage to the amygdala have demonstrated a specific impairment in the ability to direct gaze towards, and to use information from, the eyes in others' faces. This basic impairment may explain the deficient recognition of basic emotions and deficient social judgment seen in such patients. Ongoing studies in our laboratory examine face-to-face social interactions with real people in an attempt to link the above impairments in the laboratory to the dysfunctional social cognition seen in everyday life.

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