The human extended socio-attentional field and its impairment in borderline personality disorder and in social anxiety disorder
Being in the bodily presence of others facilitates important perceptual, social, and informational advantages. For example, it enables direct access to other subjects' embodied perspectives, motivates intersubjective engagements, and is involved in the construction of shared experiences and joint actions. These advantages are based on and gained through attending to and with others, i.e. they rely on social attention. It is no surprise, therefore, that a growing body of empirical data indicates that social attention is a special attentional state that involves specific behavioral and neural-cognitive properties. Another important feature of the human capacity for social attention, which is highlighted in this article is that in everyday environments social attention considerably extends and enriches the subject's attentional field. This idea draws on phenomenological considerations and on findings from cognitive science research that suggest that subjects can attend to more than in the center of their attention and that under normal conditions we can gain more features and more situations when attending to the movements, gestures, and facial expressions of others. The influence of others on the structure of our attentional field is evident from situations where others are absent from our daily surroundings. In these circumstances our attentional field narrows and the world transforms into an unfamiliar and sometimes uncanny place. Intriguingly, the same most likely occurs in social pathologies such as BPD (border line personality disorder) and SAD (social anxiety disorder), in which the bodily presence of others does not generate the emotional response we see in healthy humans even though the subject's basic capacity for social attention is intact.
Bader, O. (2020). The human extended socio-attentional field and its impairment in borderline personality disorder and in social anxiety disorder. Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences 19 (1), pp. 169-189.
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