Social Vision: Functional Forecasting and the Integration of Compound Social Cues
Review of Philosophy and Psychology
For decades the study of social perception was largely compartmentalized by type of social cue: race, gender, emotion, eye gaze, body language, facial expression etc. This was partly due to good scientific practice (e.g., controlling for extraneous variability), and partly due to assumptions that each type of social cue was functionally distinct from others. Herein, we present a functional forecast approach to understanding compound social cue processing that emphasizes the importance of shared
... social affordances across various cues (see too Adams, Franklin, Nelson, & Stevenson, 2010; Adams & Nelson, 2011; Weisbuch & Adams, 2012) . We review the traditional theories of emotion and face processing that argued for dissociable and noninteracting pathways (e.g., for specific emotional expressions, gaze, identity cues), as well as more recent evidence for combinatorial processing of social cues. We argue here that early, and presumably reflexive, visual integration of such cues is necessary for adaptive behavioral responding to others. In support of this claim, we review contemporary work that reveals a flexible visual system, one that readily incorporates meaningful contextual influences in even nonsocial visual processing, thereby establishing the functional and neuroanatomical bases necessary for compound social cue integration. Finally, we explicate three likely mechanisms driving such integration. Together, this work implicates a role for cognitive penetrability in visual perceptual abilities that have often been (and in some cases still are) ascribed to direct encapsulated perceptual processes. As human beings, we are reliant on each other for nearly all of our survival needs. Perhaps not surprisingly then, we have evolved an elaborate system of nonverbal exchange that allows us to effortlessly establish and maintain cohesive social interactions, to alert one another of potential rewards, and to warn against potential threats. If the ability to produce and recognize facial expressions evolved as a direct function of communicative utility, one argument is that such an adaptation should be less evident in environments where visual cues are obscured, as in the dark or in a forest environment where vision is obstructed by dense foliage.