In 1992, John Cacioppo and Gary Berntson for the first time described social neuroscience as a new field at the interface of (social) psychology and neurobiology with the aim of revealing the biological and particularly neural underpinnings of human social behaviour.
Already in the first description of social neuroscience, mother-infant attachment and early childhood experiences were mentioned as core constituents of human social behaviour, which highlights the intrinsic connection of social neuroscience with attachment theory.
The above said, most social neuroscience investigations into human interactions and relationships have so far only indirectly referred to attachment theory. Consequently, there has been a lack of a comprehensive framework of the social neuroscience of human attachment.
Building upon first considerations published in 2012, we recently proposed a refined functional neuro-anatomical model of human attachment (NAMA), and are currently extending it to disrupted/disorganised attachment (NAMDA).
In the first part of my talk, I will describe the underlying considerations and most consistent predictions emerging from NAMA and NAMDA.
In the second part of my talk, I will show that social neuroscience is presently undergoing an important transition from first- to second-person paradigms emphasising the need to investigate interpersonal processes during direct social interaction. I will provide concrete examples of this transition by presenting new findings from our own functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) hyper-scanning studies looking at bio-behavioural synchrony and inter-brain coherence in parents and their young children.
Altogether, I hope that my talk will illustrate how a better conceptualisation of attachment processes by means of NAMA and NAMDA and the addition of second-person paradigms can advance attachment theory and research within the 21st century.