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The University of Southampton

Signaling Matters: Using Neuroregulatory Theory to enhance Social Connectedness

Thomas R. Lynch

University of Southampton

Since Darwin’s (1872/1965) seminal book The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals a number of theorists and researchers have argued that emotions evolved to communicate. However, most treatment approaches have overlooked this observation as science became increasingly sophisticated in investigating a person’s internal experience (e.g., cognition, physiology, attention, neurobiology). Disingenuous or inhibited emotional expression is often perceived by others as inauthentic or deceptive—resulting in social ostracism and increased experiences of depression/anxiety. Social isolation and ostracism have been linked to severe and difficult-to-treat problems, such as suicidal behavior, personality disorder, anorexia nervosa, and refractory depression. Professor Lynch will introduce a novel neuroregulatory model of socio-emotional functioning that takes advantage of remarkable consistency emerging from large- scale studies of comorbidity suggesting two broad self-regulatory factors to underlie a range of psychopathological responses. This hybrid model posits cyclical and dynamic bottom-up/top-down transactions between perceptual and self-control regulatory factors—a process involving a feedback loop between the central and peripheral nervous systems that function to allow the organism to continuously adapt to the changing demands of the environment. The model also emphasizes the importance of social-signaling; asserting that optimal emotional self-regulation involves the capacity to signal cooperativeness and establish social connectedness with others—a process that is essential for the well-being of the individual and the survival of the species.

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