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Neurosociology is the application of neurobiology to the study of society. In contrast to social neuroscience, an interdisciplinary field devoted to understanding how biological systems implement social processes and behavior of the individual, Neurosociology focuses on understanding how these biological systems and individual or collective behavior affect society. Neurosociology is approached from the macro level with respect to the individual. An example of the subject matter of neurosociology would be the discovery of mirror neurons. Not only do humans passively watch what others do (including the expression of emotions) but the motor cortex actually simulates what is watched. This is part of the reason why strong emotions are contagious, and why humans can have strong physiological reactions to events viewed from afar. The lack of mirror neurons is consistent in psychopathic behavior, thus lacking many normative empathetic responses (Tancredi, 2010). Neurosociological research can help define these individuals influence on society as well as implement more efficient and humane programs of rehabilitation or incarceration. Neurosociology debunks individualistic tabula rasa theories of knowledge. In neurosociology, an environment may trigger responses, but the brain selects, interprets, edits, and changes the very quality of incoming information to fit its own requirements and limitations. Neurosociology, "posits two stages of top-down causation, first from society to mind, and second from mind to brain". Social experiences intertwined with intentions toward the self socially construct the personality and mentality of the person.
The term neurosociology was coined by Bogen (Bogen et al., 1972) to describe a study of socio-cultural variations in performance of lateralized cognitive tests, i.e., tests which tend to rely on the resources of one side of the brain or the other. Bogen et al. (1972), TenHouten et al. (1976), Thompson et al. (1979), and TenHouten (1980, 1985a, 1985b, 1989) have tested and confirmed a number of neurosociological hypotheses that show a relationship between the left and right sides of the brain; this is the bases for the creation of neurosociology. In 1972 TenHouten was a co-author of the first publication using the term neurosociology. In the late 1980s and early 1990s TenHouten was editor of the Social Neuroscience Bulletin and has frequently contributed to neurosociology. The first collection of works in neurosociology, edited by Franks and Smith, was published in 1999. Neurosociology has been most effective when examining the emotional makeup of the human brain to challenge the model of affect-free rationality assumed by rational decision-making theorists. The heart of neurosociology lies in the fact that there can be mutual influences between microscopic (e.g., biological, of brain functioning) and macroscopic (e.g., social) factors in determining brain and behavioral processes (Cacioppo & Berntson 1992, p. 1023).
Areas of study are interdisciplinary and (currently) take a strong philosophical approach while the implications of neurosociology aim to impact many societal fields such as law, social order, foreign policy, human rights, and ethics.
- Tancredi, Laurence R. (2010). Hardwired behavior : what neuroscience reveals about morality (1. paperback ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0521127394.
- (Franks, David D. "Neurosociology." Blackwell Encyclopedia of Sociology. Ritzer, George (ed). Blackwell Publishing, 2007. Blackwell Reference Online. 24 September 2012 <http://www.blackwellreference.com/subscriber/tocnode?id=g9781405124331_chunk_g978140512433120_ss1-15>)
- (TenHouten W. Neurosociology. Journal Of Social & Evolutionary Systems [serial online]. January 1997;20(1):7. Available from: Academic Search Complete, Ipswich, MA. Accessed September 24, 2012.)