Disciplines/fields: Psychology, Neurobiology, Cognitive Science, Psychopathology, Anthropology, Philosophy

Duration: 4 sessions

Course Content

This course will cover theoretical and empirical issues of interaction and communication in social encounters from a variety of disciplines covering psychology, psychopathology, social cognitive neuroscience, anthropology and philosophy. Interaction and communication will be presented on the basis of two fundamental modes of information processing including reflexive, explicit, inferential processes as well as prereflexive, implicit, nonverbal communication. Making use of virtual character technology and functional neuroimaging these processes can also be systematically studied on a neural level. These studies revealed that two different functional systems appear to constitute two different routes of processing underlying our social cognitive capacities in everyday social encounters, namely the so-called “mirror neuron system” (MNS) and the “social neural network” (SNN, also theory of mind network or mentalizing network). The functional roles of both systems appear to be complementary: The MNS serves comparatively “early” stages of social information processing that are more related to spatial or bodily signals, whereas the SNN serves comparatively “late” stages of social information processing that are more related to the “evaluation” of emotional and psychological states of others. Most recently, we focused on the study of “social gaze” and the experience of being engaged in an ongoing interaction with others. Truly interacting with others additionally recruits the reward system possibly reflecting the hedonic experience and primary motivation to interact with others.


Conceptual: To understand fundamental principles of interaction and communication from a variety of different research perspectives and to learn the functional roles of the underlying neurobiological substrates.

Methodological: Learn how to study nonverbal communication between persons with a special focus on social gaze behavior covering person perception experiments and truly interactive approaches with a special focus on psychopathology of autism.


Vogeley K, Bente G: “Artificial Humans”: Psychology and Neuroscience Perspectives on Embodiment and Nonverbal Communication. Neural Networks 23, 1077-1090, 2010

Han S, Northoff G, Vogeley K, Wexler BE, Kitayama S, Varnum MEW: Cultural Neuroscience Approach to the Biosocial Nature of Humans. Ann Rev Psychol 64, 335-359, 2013

Schilbach L, Timmermans B, Reddy V, Bente G, Costall A, Schlicht T, Vogeley K: Toward a second-person neuroscience. Behavioral and Brain Sciences 36, 383-414, 2013

Pfeiffer UJ, Vogeley K, Schilbach L: From gaze cueing to dual eye-tracking: Novel methods to investigate the neural correlates of gaze in social interaction. Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews 37, 2516-2528, 2013

Georgescu AL, Kuzmanovic B, Roth D, Bente G, Vogeley K: The use of virtual characters to assess and train nonverbal communication in high-functioning autism. Front Hum Neurosci 8, 807, 2014

Roth D, Latoschik ME, Vogeley K, Bente G: Hybrid Avatar-Agent Technology – a Conceptual Step Towards Mediated “Social” Virtual Reality and its Repetitive Challenges. i-com, 14(2), 2015


Kai Vogeley is Professor for Psychiatry and head of the Autism Outpatient Clinic at the University Hospital Cologne and group leader of the “Social Cognition” group at the Institute for Neuroscience and Medicine – Cognitive Neuroscience (INM3) at the Research Center Juelich. He is currently spokesperson of the German Society for Cognitive Science from 2014 to 2016. He studied medicine and philosophy and finished his courses with his MD thesis in neuropathology (1992) and his PhD thesis in philosophy of mind (1993). After residencies in neuropathology, neurology, psychiatry and psychotherapy he passed board examinations for neurology, psychiatry and psychotherapy. After his habilitation (2003) he was appointed a professorship at the University of Cologne (2014). His interdisciplinary research interests focus on the neurobiology of autism and schizophrenia, social neuroscience and philosophical aspects of neuroscience and psychopathology.