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Front. Sociol. | doi: 10.3389/fsoc.2019.00003

Opening the ‘Black Box’: Functions of the Frontal Lobes and their Implications for Sociology

  • 1University of California, Riverside, United States

Previous research has provided theoretical frameworks for building inter-disciplinary bridges between sociology and the neurosciences; yet, more anatomically or functionally focused perspectives offering detailed information to sociologists is largely missing from the literature. This manuscript addresses this gap by offering a comprehensive review of the functions of the frontal lobes, arguably the most important brain region involved in various ‘human’ skills ranging from abstract thinking to language. The paper proposes that the functions of the frontal lobe sub-regions can be divided into three inter-related hierarchical systems with varying degrees of causal proximity in regulating human behavior and social connectedness: (a) the most proximate, voluntary, controlled behavior—including motor functions underlying action-perception and mirror neurons, (b) more abstract motivation and emotional regulation—such as Theory of Mind and empathy, and (c) the higher-order executive functioning—inhibition of racial bias. The paper offers insights from the social neuroscience literature on phenomena that lie at the core of social theory and research including moral cognition and behavior and empathy and inter-group attitudes and provides future research questions for interdisciplinary research.

Keywords: frontal lobes, neurosociology, Biosociology, Prefrontal Cortex, Frontal lobe functions, social neuroscience, Cognition, Emotions

Received: 06 Sep 2018; Accepted: 10 Jan 2019.

Edited by:

Doug Marshall, University of South Alabama, United States

Reviewed by:

Stephen Turner, University of South Florida, United States
Ghulam M. Ashraf, King Abdulaziz University, Saudi Arabia
John F. Shelley-Tremblay, University of South Alabama, United States  

Copyright: © 2019 Firat. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Dr. Rengin B. Firat, University of California, Riverside, Riverside, United States, rbfirat@ucr.edu