Bonn Social Neuroscience Unit


The Bonn Social Neuroscience Unit studies the neural basis of social interactions between humans. Specifically, our interests range from the distinction between living and non-living things (perception of animacy), through face perception, representations of actions, emotions, goals and intentions of other social agents, the decision to interact with them or not, to social influences on decisions and the experience of the consequences of social decisions.

We primarily use methods from classical visual psychophysics and neuroimaging, and have recently begun using methods from behavioural economics. We test mainly healthy adult human participants and occasionally patients with relevant psychiatric disorders.

Our main research topics are listed below, together with representative publications. How these topics relate to each other is described in the Research page. You can find out who we are here and find more publications here. Do contact us for more information or to participate in experiments.

We believe that the following sequence of processes is necessary to engage in social interactions (and we study several of them):

Recent representative publications

(more publications here)


Schultz J, Bülthoff HH. (2019). Perceiving animacy purely from visual motion cues involves intraparietal sulcus. NeuroImage, 197, 120–132. DOI: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2019.04.058, PDF

Schultz J, Bülthoff HH. (2013). Parametric animacy percept evoked by a single moving dot mimicking natural stimuli. Journal of Vision, 13, 15. DOI: 10.1167/13.4.15, PDF

Face processing

Dobs K, Schultz J, Bülthoff I, Gardner JL. (2018). Task-dependent enhancement of facial expression and identity representations in human cortex. NeuroImage, 172, 689–702. DOI: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2018.02.013, PDF

Dobs K, Bülthoff I, Schultz J. (2016). Identity information content depends on the type of facial movement. Scientific Reports, 6, 34301. DOI: 10.1038/srep34301, PDF

Schultz J, Brockhaus M, Bülthoff HH, Pilz KS. (2013). What the human brain likes about moving faces. Cerebral Cortex, 23, 1167-1178. DOI: 10.1093/cercor/bhs106, PDF


Kim J, Schultz J, Rohe T, Wallraven C, Lee S-W, Bülthoff HH. (2015). Abstract representations of associated emotions in the human brain. Journal of Neuroscience, 35, 5655–63. DOI: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.4059-14.2015, PDF

Social decisions

Schultz J, Willems T, Gädeke M, Chakkour G, Franke A, Weber B, Hurlemann R. (2019). A human subcortical network underlying social avoidance revealed by risky economic choices. eLife, 8:e45249. DOI: 10.7554/eLife.45249, PDF

Individual differences

Maier AM, Gieling C, Heinen-Ludwig L, Stefan V, Schultz J, Güntürkün O, Stoffel-Wagner B, Becker B, Hurlemann R, Scheele D. (2019). Association of childhood maltreatment with interpersonal distance and social touch preferences in adulthood. The American Journal of Psychiatry, advance online publication 16 August 2019. DOI: 10.1176/appi.ajp.2019.19020212, PDF

David N*, Schultz J*, Milne E, Schunke O, Schöttle D, Münchau A, Siegel M, Vogeley K, Engel AK. (2014). Right Temporoparietal Gray Matter Volume Predicts Accuracy of Social Perception in Autism Spectrum Disorders. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 44:1433–1446. DOI: 10.1007/s10803-013-2008-3, PDF