I am interested in how we plan and execute social and communicative actions, for example pointing out an object to someone else. This seems like such a simple mundane task that it might be hard to see why it is so fascinating to study. But it is a task that a young child quickly learns to do even before she utters her first words, while no monkey, no matter how smart or talented, will ever fully master this simple action. The child will adapt the reference of her pointing so you can easily track her finger to the object, she will look you in the eyes, checking that you are paying attention, not to her, but to the object she is pointing to. She shares with you her attention and her intention, keeping in mind your capabilities, addressing you as another social person.
- declarative and instrumental pointing
- pantomiming and iconic gestures
- social perspective taking and attentional reorienting
- competitive and cooperative behaviour
I use a combination of neuroimaging and neurostimulation methods to study the mechanisms of social and communicative actions. In three separate but interrelated studies I investigate (1) the neural substrate of communicative pointing and message reference frames, (2) the notion that social perspective taking is an evolved instance of attentional reorienting mechanisms, and (3) if distinct brain networks support competitive and cooperative behaviour.