Social: Why Our Brains Are Wired to Connectby Matthew D. Lieberman
We are profoundly social creatures – more than we know.
In Social, renowned psychologist Matthew Lieberman explores groundbreaking research in social neuroscience revealing that our need to connect with other people is even more fundamental, more basic, than our need for food or shelter. Because of this, our brain uses its/i>/b>/b>
We are profoundly social creatures – more than we know.
In Social, renowned psychologist Matthew Lieberman explores groundbreaking research in social neuroscience revealing that our need to connect with other people is even more fundamental, more basic, than our need for food or shelter. Because of this, our brain uses its spare time to learn about the social world – other people and our relation to them. It is believed that we must commit 10,000 hours to master a skill. According to Lieberman, each of us has spent 10,000 hours learning to make sense of people and groups by the time we are ten.
Social argues that our need to reach out to and connect with others is a primary driver behind our behavior. We believe that pain and pleasure alone guide our actions. Yet, new research using fMRI – including a great deal of original research conducted by Lieberman and his UCLA lab shows that our brains react to social pain and pleasure in much the same way as they do to physical pain and pleasure. Fortunately, the brain has evolved sophisticated mechanisms for securing our place in the social world. We have a unique ability to read other people’s minds, to figure out their hopes, fears, and motivations, allowing us to effectively coordinate our lives with one another. And our most private sense of who we are is intimately linked to the important people and groups in our lives. This wiring often leads us to restrain our selfish impulses for the greater good. These mechanisms lead to behavior that might seem irrational, but is really just the result of our deep social wiring and necessary for our success as a species.
Based on the latest cutting edge research, the findings in Social have important real-world implications. Our schools and businesses, for example, attempt to minimalize social distractions. But this is exactly the wrong thing to do to encourage engagement and learning, and literally shuts down the social brain, leaving powerful neuro-cognitive resources untapped. The insights revealed in this pioneering book suggest ways to improve learning in schools, make the workplace more productive, and improve our overall well-being.
Lieberman (Psychology, Psychiatry, and Biobehavioral Sciences/UCLA) offers scientific evidence to counter the idea that the need to survive and reproduce is the fundamental driver of human behavior. The author rejects Abraham Maslow's 1943 formulation of a hierarchy of needs stacked in a pyramid, suggesting that the pyramid is upside down. Physiological needs and safety are at the bottom, followed by social needs and esteem, which Lieberman describes as "the extra scoops of ice cream" and "cherry on top." He shows countervailing evidence, amassed over the past two decades, that shows social needs to be as basic as their physiological counterparts. Using MRI, the author and his associates have identified a separate area of the brain in which social cognition occurs. It is activated when we "think about other people's minds…[and] promotes understanding and empathy, cooperation, and consideration." Along with the capacity for empathy provided by mirror neurons, which we share with other species, it is the part of the brain that we use when we think "about the social world and our place in it." It also allows us to function effectively in the larger social groups that are typical of human societies, as compared to other primates, and to function collectively in more complex ways. Mammalian young depend on a caretaker from the moment of their birth in order to survive. "Our need for connection is the bedrock upon which the others are built," writes the author. Empathy, love and our need for social connections follow. A fascinating explanation of why "a broken heart can feel as painful as a broken leg" and social recognition is frequently prized above money.
Renowned psychologist Lieberman (psychology, Univ. of California, Los Angeles; founding editor, Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience) takes a close look at just how essential it is to maintain an active social life and connect to others in order to survive. He flips Maslow's hierarchy of needs (which ranks social needs as less crucial than physiological and security needs) on its head and, with clear examples and current research in social cognitive neuroscience, claims that social connectedness is our first true need in life. Without these connections, he notes, our species would never have survived. Lieberman equates social pain and rejection with physical pain and social rewards with pleasure. He discusses our need for acceptance, recognition, and connection in all aspects of our lives, from school to work to our personal relationships. Now, with the Internet and the explosion of social media, there has been a huge shift in how we connect, but has it really made us more social? Lieberman's book addresses this question. VERDICT All readers—business professionals, educators, and users of social media in particular—can apply Lieberman's text to their daily lives. Recommended for all collections. [See Prepub Alert, 4/15/13.]—Jill Morningstar, Michigan State Univ. Libs., East Lansing
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Meet the Author
Mathew D. Lieberman was trained at Harvard University and is a professor in the Departments of Psychology, Psychiatry, and Biobehavioral Sciences at the University of California, Los Angeles, and the founding editor of the journal Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience. In 2007, the American Psychological Association awarded him the Distinguished Scientific Award for an Early Career Contribution to Psychology, an award given to one social psychologist every two years. He is one of the foremost authorities in the world on the study of Social Neuroscience.
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