How do we understand social signals?

How do we understand social signals? The brain’s social pathway attaches meaning to social signals, motivates us to respond to social signals, and guides our social behavior.

Our primary sense for making meaning of the social world around us is vision, although touch, smell, and sound also play a role. Somehow, our visual system has to figure out which objects are socially important to us.

Our brains process visual information in primary and secondary cortical sensory areas. These areas separate out visual objects that have particular social meaning, such as the face, which is critical in communication. Early on, babies pay particular attention to the face. Given a choice between a face and another object, babies spend more time looking at the face. Eye-tracking experiments show that babies pay attention primarily to the eyes, followed by the mouth.