Clinical psychology of social interaction group  

Clinical psychology of social interaction group

Research program

Group leader: Professor Dr. Isabel Dziobek

Our group’s research program focuses on the psychological and biological basis of social cognition. In its broadest sense, social cognition includes cognitive and emotional processes that serve social interaction and communication.  As such it has been identified as crucial for psychological wellbeing and social success, and therefore is of great importance to us as individuals and societies. The phenomena which we study include, among others, the understanding of the mental states of others (i.e., Theory of Mind), empathy, decision making in social contexts, social judgments, emotion and face recognition, and socio-emotional competencies.

Some of the questions we are seeking to answer include: can empathy be trained and is there plasticity in the social brain? Does mirroring of facial expressions and whole body movements help in understanding what another person is feeling? How does stress and cortisol affect mindreading?  How do people use perspective taking to manipulate others? What are the psychological and biological factors that determine whether a person will decide to cooperate or compete with others?

We investigate these questions using a variety of methods such as behavioral experiments and self-reports, imaging methods such as eyetracking, EEG, structural and functional MRI as well as measures of peripheral physiology, including those of autonomic and endocrine activity. A particular emphasis is placed on the development and validation of ecologically valid, i.e., everyday life relevant, social cognition tests and trainings.  This is realized by using, for instance, videos of complex social interactions or placing our subjects in real social encounters.

Many of our studies involve individuals with psychiatric conditions that are characterized by impaired social functioning such as autism spectrum conditions and personality disorders, e.g. borderline and narcissistic personality disorder. Carefully characterizing social impairments in those groups does not only help us to better understand the conditions and develop targeted interventions, but it also teaches us more generally about constructs such as empathy and Theory of Mind in healthy “neurotypical” individuals.
One specific focus of our research is the trainability of mindreading and empathy. Through investigating the longitudinal effects of interventions that we developed such as video-based programs to teach the recognition of emotions and a dance-movement intervention to foster empathy, we are learning about the plasticity of social cognition and the social brain.

Here are some of the projects we are involved in:
•    Interpersonal functions of social cognition
•    Gender differences in mindreading
•    Emotional and cognitive empathy training: Development and evaluation of a new training software for children with autism spectrum conditions
•    MUSAD - development and validation of a music-based instrument for autism diagnostics.
•    Embodiment of social cognition: How spontaneous simulation of bodily states helps us to share and understand the feelings and thoughts of others

Group leader

Prof. Dr. Isabel Dziobek

Affiliation 1:
Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin
Department of Psychology

Affiliation 2:
Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin
Berlin School of Mind and Brain

Website HU Berlin: Clinical Psychology of Social Interaction group at Department of Psychology

Postal address

Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin
Institute of Psychology
Professor Dr. Isabel Dziobek
10099 Berlin
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Location of office

Luisenstraße 56, 10117 Berlin, R. 306

Lab management

Alexandra Säumenicht
Luisenstraße 56, 10117 Berlin, Room 303
+49 30 2093-89770
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This page last updated on: 17 January 2022