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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.
It seems natural that when a person is rewarded with a cash prize there is intense activity in the pleasure centers of his or her brain. But why do we experience neurally identical pleasure when giving away money? Why is the emotional pain of being left out of a game of catch identical to that of physical injury? Using the latest research in neuroscience, Lieberman, an award-winning social psychologist, shows readers how their brains may be wired, first and foremost, to harmonize and connect with others, rather than simply to act in their own interests. With the help of new functional MRI technology, Lieberman explores the surprising new science of social interaction, investigating how our perceptions of others affect our cognition and, even more elementally, how social interaction and its absence can produce the same mental responses as physical pain and pleasure, as well as what that fact might mean about the evolution of the brain. Lieberman's findings are convincing: over the course of their evolution, humans have developed sophisticated means of responding to group challenges and the norms of altruism and cohesion have become ingrained in neural biology. The end of the book outlines how to integrate social cognition into teaching and management. Social is a far-ranging and sometimes long-winded introduction to how humans think together.