Whether negotiating the price of an item in a foreign marketplace or temporally coordinating actions within a musical ensemble, a central function of the human brain is to mediate interactions with others, whether for communication or more physical examples of joint action. How one brain interacts with others has been said to depend on social cognition however, the precise manner in which we consider the actions, intentions or emotions of others is still contested. A representationalist account goes a long way to describing how an exchange of "self" and "other" information should result in an internal model of how others might act. My current research puts a greater emphasis on the perceptual / sensory bases of this representation. By means of behavioural and functional neuroimaging studies paired with novel computational modelling methods, my current work investigates richer forms of social interaction in which non-verbal, sensory cues are probed in various scenarios including i) dynamic interactions, ii) multisensory or iii) emotionally valent contexts (e.g. affective touch or pain, music) or iv) larger groups of interacting individuals. By conducting this work within a department of philosophy, the empirical data will be interpreted within an interdisciplinary environment and, thus, should significantly expand our theoretical framework for a perceptually based social cognition highlighting how, if at all, it differs from our interactions with objects.
Merle Fairhurst holds a diploma in music and completed her undergraduate and postgraduate training in Physiological Sciences and Cognitive Neuroscience at the University of Oxford with her doctoral work entitled "Dissecting the pain experience using psychological intervention and functional MRI". Her postdoctoral training has included two research fellowships with the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences (Leipzig) firstly within the Music, Cognition and Action group (2009-2012) and then in the Early Social Development group (2012-2013). Before starting at the LMU, she completed a research fellowship at the Centre for the Study of the Senses at the University of London (2014-2017). She is currently an Assistant Professor in the Philosophy of Mind and Cognitive Neuroscience group.
Download: CV Merle T. Fairhurst (PDF)
- Theoretical review on alignment
- A model of social interaction: sensorimotor synchronisation with an adaptive virtual partner
- Social touch in infants