The Neuroscience of Causality and Animacy

n 1998, Heberlein and colleges showed patients the Heider and Simmel movie. They found discovered that patients with amygdala damage did not describe the shapes using any social or anthropomorphic terms. These findings make sense since the amygdala is responsible for experiencing emotions. Even though the amygdala was damaged, the participants were able to judge causality and animacy suggesting other parts of the brain are necessary for judging these perceptions.

brain sliceA PET study conducted by Happe and Firth (1999) found that that intentional movement activated more activity in the random-movement displays in the tempoparietal junction, fusiform gyrus, occipital gyrus and medial frontal cortex compared to goal-directed movement. Processing in these parts appear to be domain specific or organised into modules. Evidence is based on Fodor’s (1975) descriptions of modality. Perception of causality and animacy is domain specific, processing is restricted to specific causal and intentional interpretations, the process is entirely a visual phenomenon and the causality and animacy are fast, automatic and innate.