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Doctoraatsverdediging Kris Baetens: Personality Traits, Social Scripts an the Medial Prefrontal Cortex: Mentalizing or Meaning?

vrijdag, 21 december, 2012 - 15:00
Campus: Brussels Humanities, Sciences & Engineering campus
Faculteit: Psychology and Educational Sciences
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doctoraatsverdediging

Doctoraatsverdediging in de Psychologische Wetenschappen  - Kris Baetens – vrijdag 21 december 2012 – 15u00 - Aula Qd

Personality Traits, Social Scripts an the Medial Prefrontal Cortex: Mentalizing or Meaning?

Promotor

Prof. dr. Frank Van Overwalle
Vrije Universiteit Brussel
Vakgroep Experimentele en Toegepaste Psychologie

Abstract

The complexity of our social interactions has probably been a major selective factor driving the enlargement of the human brain. Especially important for maneuvering through our ever-changing social world is the capacity to make long-lasting inferences about others: By interpreting others’ behaviors in terms of underlying personality traits, we can anticipate their future behaviors to some extent. Neuroimaging studies have shown that the dorsomedial prefrontal cortex (dmPFC) is consistently engaged when we make such enduring inferences. However, it remains relatively unclear precisely what this brain region contributes in this context.

Through four empirical studies, this dissertation attempts to shed some light on the functional role of the dmPFC in social cognition. Two studies address the electrophysiological correlates of social expectancy violations based on two different types of enduring social inferences, personality traits and social scripts. These studies highlight the importance of semantic processes in dealing with inconsistent behavior. Moreover, they reconcile the literature on trait violations with earlier studies on stereotype violations and underscore the distinction between the predictive and affective information entailed in personality traits. Further, two fMRI studies demonstrate dmPFC involvement in semantic categorization (“what is this/what does this mean?”) versus concrete, visual description (“what does this look like?”) of both social stimuli (human behaviors) and non-social stimuli (objects). It is suggested that dmPFC activation in trait inferences might reflect a general self-guided process of semantic retrieval.

CV

Kris Baetens was born on the 14th of March 1985 in Wilrijk, Antwerp. In 2008, he obtained the degree of Master in Clinical Psychology at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel. He obtained a scholarship as Research Fellow of the Research Foundation – Flanders (Aspirant Fonds voor Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek – Vlaanderen), and started his PhD research in the department of Experimental and Applied Psychology (EXTO) under supervision of Prof. Dr. Frank Van Overwalle. He attempted to elucidate some basic neurocognitive functions of the so-called “social brain”. Over the past four years, he presented his work at various national and international conferences, and authored and co-authored several international peer-reviewed journal articles and a book chapter.

Jury

Prof. dr. Eva Van den Bussche (voorzitter)
Vrije Universiteit Brussel
Vakgroep Experimentele en Toegepaste Psychologie

Prof. dr. Monica Dhar
Vrije Universiteit Brussel
Vakgroep Experimentele en Toegepaste Psychologie

Prof. dr. Peter Mariën
Vrije Universiteit Brussel
Vakgroep Taal- en Letterkunde

Prof. dr. Dana Samson
Université catholique de Louvain
Psychological Sciences Research Institute

Prof. dr. Marcel Brass
Universiteit Gent
Vakgroep Experimentele Psychologie