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Socioneuroscience and its contributions to conscious versus unconscious volition and control. The case of gender violence prevention

1 Department of Sociology, University of Barcelona, Spain
2 Centre for Community, Gender and Social Justice, Institute of Criminology, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, United Kingdom
3 Department of Sociology, Autonomous University of Barcelona, Spain

Topical Section: Conscious versus Unconscious Volition and Control

Research in neuroscience is being very fruitful in providing evidence about the influence of social experience in the architecture and functioning of the brain. In so doing, neuroscience is posing new and fascinating research questions to examine in depth the social processes that produce those neural changes. To undertake the task of tackling such research questions, evidence from the social sciences are necessary to better understand how different types of social experiences produce different types of synaptic changes and even modify subcortical brain structures differently. It will be the dialogue between neuroscience, other natural sciences and the social sciences which will advance the scientific understanding of plastic changes in the brain which result from complex social experiences that have been traditionally studied by the social sciences. Socioneuroscience constitutes the arena for such interdisciplinary dialogue and research that can both advance the scientific understanding of the human brain and provide evidence-based solutions to most urgent social problems. Socioneuroscience studies the relations between the human brain and social interactions taking into account knowledge from all social sciences and the natural sciences. Processes of conscious versus unconscious social volition and control is one central area of inquiry in socioneuroscience. In this article, we discuss thedominant coercive discourse in society -which presents males with aggressive attitudes and behaviors as more attractive- as an example of social control of human volition which imprisons many individuals’ sexual freedom. However, due to brain plasticity, certain experiences that question such dominant discourse and empty violence from attractiveness open up the possibility for the individual and the society to break free from the neural wiring imposed by the dominant coercive discourse and, in the words of Santiago Ramón y Cajal, be ourselves “the architects of our brain”, contributing to overcome violence against women.
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