Neural substrates of social status inference: Role of medial prefrontal cortex and superior temporal sulcus. Mason, M.F., Magee, J., & Fiske, S. (2014). Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 26, 1131-1140. (PDF).
The negotiation of social order is intimately connected to the capacity to infer and track status relationships. Despite the foundational role of status in social cognition, we know little about how the brain constructs status from social interactions that display it. While emerging cognitive neuroscience reveals that status judgments depend on the intraparietal sulcus, a brain region that supports the comparison of targets along a quantitative continuum, we present evidence that status judgments do not necessarily reduce to ranking targets along a quantitative continuum. The process of judging status also fits a social-interdependence analysis. Consistent with third-party perceivers judging status by inferring whose goals are dictating the terms of the interaction and who is subordinating their desires to whom, status judgments were associated with increased recruitment of medial prefrontal cortex and superior temporal sulcus, brain regions implicated in mental state inference.