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Publisher's Summary

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

Critic Reviews

"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)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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"Bowling Alone" For Your Brain...

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...

35 of 36 people found this review helpful

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  • Gary
  • Las Cruces, NM, United States
  • 06-16-14

Gives a coherent narrative for our social mind

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.

15 of 17 people found this review helpful

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too many preconceived notions

The neuroscience studies are absolutely fantastic. However, the assumptions the author makes are not supported by those studies, even the studies he, himself, conducted. It could have been a great book if he followed the data instead of trying to make the data fit his preconceived notions. It's more of a self-help book, with a prescriptive tone, that happens to include some awesome neuroscience.

8 of 9 people found this review helpful

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A flawed document with a good performance

Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?

I would not recommend this audiobook. It's fast pace and the extensive use of acronyms make listening tedious and tiring. It was a chore to finish. The book would be better if someone needs to read this. It would make skipping the tedious sections easier.

What was most disappointing about Matthew D. Lieberman’s story?

The author bases his conclusions on questionable evidence and reports incomplete analysis. There was some interesting points but the author makes incorrect generalizations (no, everyone does not have a Facebook account (1 billion members perhaps but it is not mentioned that 6 billion people are not members). Nor does everyone watch reality TV and gossip. Some individuals simply don't need to be the center of attention and may prefer solitude. I won't even get into his absurd teaching suggestions.

What about Mike Chamberlain’s performance did you like?

The performance is very clear, however, the pace was a little fast and the very frequent use of acronyms made me unable to follow at times.

Was Social worth the listening time?

No, it was too long and tedious.

Any additional comments?

Perhaps the author could do a follow-up: "Why All People Are Not Wired The Same Way".

6 of 7 people found this review helpful

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Mindblower

Came here through Tai, and stayd for Matt. Gives a fine understanding of behavioral patterns, along with some widely applicable knowledge

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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content was awesome, the narration was dry

ironically, my menatlizing system had a hard time engaging because the narrator sounded at times like a computer program that was reading the brilliant text.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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I had and Aha moment

In listening to the ideas that were discussed in the book Social I experienced a moment of "now this makes sense". The lens that I look at my life and the lives of those that I influence has been broaden.

To the author I would like to say Thank You.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Ted
  • Scottsdale, AZ, United States
  • 07-20-15

Amazing insights with a power to transform society!

The social mind revealed by this review of recent scientific discoveries remains largely misunderstood! By gaining an insight into the facts revealed, the reader can gain significant clarity to chart a course toward a better tomorrow. This book is very powerful!

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Would read again.

Amazing insight into personal and social behaviour. This book is a good parnter to Daniel Goleman's Emotional Intelligence. Will definitely read again, a lit of content to take in.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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i loved it

it was very knowledgebase. I loved every chapter and the reader was great! I learned about being social.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Georgestam
  • 07-29-15

Now I understand why we suffer!

This book has opened my mind on understanding why sometimes we feel empty and what is all the source of all the happiness. It has also a master lecture of how the new education should be.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Asten
  • 04-07-17

Social skills and knowledge is the most important skill

This is a great book. It shows the importance of our social skills, interactions and relationships from a scientific study. Our society especially in the west grossly underestimates the importance of the social skills and relationships we have with each other, from romance, family and friends to business and the workplace. We have been taught that money and academics is more important and although those pillars are important we need the social pillar just as much, maybe even more. A must read! Brilliant book.

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  • N. Drennan
  • 07-14-16

An exceptional book

This book is brilliantly written and very thought provoking . I just hope people are listening to this message. Highly recommended.

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  • Duncan Dale
  • 07-09-16

Compulsory reading

Listen to this and you will understand everything, period. Also should be top of the list for anyone suffering from social anxiety; or as I now know to refer to it: social pain and suffering.