A critical aspect of social interaction is understanding who other people are and how we might expect them to behave. For example, one may expect a robber and a butcher to act very differently whilst in possession of a knife. Thus, appreciating the meaning of social interactions depends crucially on understanding others’ identity.Ongoing research in the lab is investigating how aspects of another person’s identity, such as body-shape and group membership, are integrated in the brain. For example, a history of experience with a romantic partner is likely to shape one’s representation of her identity. Even when we meet a stranger for the first time we have access to a rich array of information pertaining to identity, such as gender, age and skin colour. Such categorising and stereotyping of others based on group membership plays a vital role in how we understand and engage with other people, which is why we aim to understand their underlying cognitive and neural mechanisms.
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