The capacity to understand another person's emotions, intentions, beliefs and personality traits, based on observed or communicated behaviors, is termed social cognition. During the last decade, social neuroscience has made great progress in understanding the neural correlates of social cognition. However, because the cerebellum is traditionally viewed as only involved in motor processing, the contribution of this major part of the brain in social processing has been largely ignored and its specific role in social cognition remains unclear. Nevertheless, recent meta-analyses have made its crucial contribution to social cognition evident. This raises the question: What is the exact function of the cerebellum in social cognition? We hypothesize that the cerebellum builds internal action models of our social inter-actions to predict how other people's actions will be executed, what our most likely responses are to these actions, so that we can automatize our interactions and instantly detect disruptions in these action sequences. This mechanism likely allows to better anticipate action sequences during social interactions in an automatic and intuitive way and to fine-tune these anticipations, making it easier to understand behaviors and to detect violations. This hypothesis has major implications in neurological disorders affecting the cerebellum such as autism, with detrimental effects on social functionality, especially on more complex and abstract social cognitive processes. Because the fundamental anatomical organization of the cerebellum is identical in many species (cerebellar microcomplexes), this hypothesis could have major impacts to elucidate social interactions in social animals.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)33-42
Number of pages10
JournalMedical Hypotheses
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2019

    Research areas

  • Cerebellum, Forward controller, Internal models, Social

ID: 46026103