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 audiobook suggest ways to improve learning in schools, make the workplace more productive, and improve our overall well-being.
©2013 Matthew D. Lieberman (P)2013 Tantor
"A fascinating explanation of why 'a broken heart can feel as painful as a broken leg' and social recognition is frequently prized above money." (Kirkus)
College English professor who loves classic literature, psychology, neurology and hates pop trash like Twilight and Fifty Shades of Grey.
A dozen years ago, Robert Putnam released what has become a classic in sociology: Bowling Alone. In this book, Putnam lamented how technology was distancing people from one another and how it was wearing down the natural tendency of people to interact in face-to-face, interpersonal ways: at church socials, book discussion groups, bowling leagues. Now Matthew Lieberman is using the fairly new but ever burgeoning (and tremendously popular!) science of neuro-imaging to show that Putnam was right: we need each other. The book holds up pretty well and remains interesting throughout, and it is cool to know what parts of the brain are associated with social interactions (and this is why I purchased the book) but the one caveat might be that it is somewhat guilty of what Sally Satel and Scott Lilienfield (authors of Brainwashed) call "neuro-redundancy," that is, using neuroscience to state the obvious. (Witness Kayt Sukel's This Is Your Brain On Sex...we learn that orgasms light up the pleasure and motivation centers of the brain: in short, we learn that orgasms feel good and people are motivated to have them...DUH!) Any good sociology textbook will show a plethora of plausible reasons why people need people (and why they are the luckiest people of all!), and the neo-Darwinians (Wilson, Pinker, Wright, et. al) have been going on for some time about how evolution has "hard-wired" us to be social. Okay, people need other people: that part is a "no-brainer." Still, the book is interesting from a scientific level if not so much from a sociological one. So get the 411 on your brain on social interaction here...and then read Putnam's classic Bowling Alone...
Letting the rest of the world go by
The author writes an accessible book for the non-expert while never talking down to the listener who really wants to understand the working of the mind. He has a narrative that ties all of the pieces of the book together that current humans are always using their brain, and when we are not thinking about physical or abstract objects directly and our mind is at rest we are 'mentalizing', that is, we are thinking about ourselves and our interactions with others leading to the almost unique human capability of "theory of mind".
He never strays from the facts and will give the details surrounding all of the science (including some of his own experiments). He delves in to the details about mirror neurons and what they mean, contrasts that with how we constantly mentalize our social world and connects some potential dots to autism while never getting ahead of the known data. He presents all the necessary nuances necessary to understand the problem and leaves the listener realizing that the problem is much more complicated than simple a simple yes or no answer.
I know I see the social world and its role in learning much differently than the author. That for me made for a better book. For example, the author at the end of the book would say that he didn't like history as taught in school. He likes the 'how and why' more than the 'what' (objective facts). He would teach by keeping the student more grounded in the narrative of history, for example.
Some people, like me much prefer facts and like history as it was taught in school and like tying them together abstractly and analytically, and it will be people like me who would tend to prefer this nicely written book because he does stick to objective facts while tying them together through abstract relationships.
In the whole, the author does a very good job of defending his thesis that the brain and all of its pieces are wired to make us humans function the most effectively in a social world. Empathy is one of the hallmarks in our humanity.
I found this to be one the landmark books in my reading history. Prof Lieberman and his co-workers have proven through experiments what many philosophers, artists, and people from all walks of life instinctively knew (or were "wired" to recognise), that a goal-driven, task-obsessed approach is NOT our default mode. Convenient as it may be for us to be able to create a world to our liking, RELATIONSHIPS are the main drivers in human society. My eyes have been opened to exciting new growth possibilities and my personal history and career moves validated by what I have learned from "Social".
If you have the patience it is worth it. The book reads like a thesis but you will learn a lot
I enjoyed this read very much. There were many different sections of this book that help illuminate the way the human mind works.
Don't expect to finish this book and have a deep understanding of the topic. Instead appreciate how Liebermann sums up the material in a broad, easy to understand manner.
I particularly enjoyed the discussions about autistic children and their challenges, as well as his proposal to implement social skills-based learning at the junior high school level. Great thought-provoking and conversational material.
Putting books on the back burner.
Growing up with a disability, I always had a hard time being social no matter how many friends I had. I always felt like that I stuck out like a sore thumb. Ironically, I overcame my fears and more people knows me than I know them. At some point in my life, I became a rolling billboard for most people because of my unique ability to use my feet. I only have a handful of friends that I'm close with, and rooms full of names that I choose to not to know. I also choose not to have a social media status because I find posting to be counterproductive to the real thing. I don't need thousands of followers that I will never meet other than reading their texts.
By the way, I don't Tweet, Posts and unless we met in real life and have a common interest, I don't Friend either.
"Social: Why Our Brains are Wired to Connect," by Matthew Lieberman, is a remarkable study how our brain is wired at being social. Outstanding information how being social betters our society in every way. This book really hit home when he tries to explain that being social is like a smoker having two packs of cigarettes a day. Really interesting on human beings needs to be social and how the act of communicating can can teach, learn, and encourage others. There are many more examples from Lieberman and they are all well explain.
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