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Group Process Intergroup Relat. 2008 Apr 1;11(2):201-214.

Knowing Who's Boss: fMRI and ERP Investigations of Social Dominance Perception.

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Northwestern University.


Humans use facial cues to convey social dominance and submission. Despite the evolutionary importance of this social ability, how the brain recognizes social dominance from the face is unknown. We used event-related brain potentials (ERP) and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to examine the neural mechanisms underlying social dominance perception from facial cues. Participants made gender judgments while viewing aggression-related facial expressions as well as facial postures conveying dominance or submission. ERP evidence indicates that the perception of dominance from aggression-related emotional expressions occurs early in neural processing while the perception of social dominance from facial postures arises later. Brain imaging results show that activity in the fusiform gyrus, superior temporal gyrus and lingual gyrus, is associated with the perception of social dominance from facial postures and the magnitude of neural response in these regions differentiates between perceived dominance and perceived submissiveness.

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