October 8, 2013
Based on over a decade of groundbreaking research in social neuroscience – how our brains respond to social engagement – Social reveals that our need to connect with other people is even more fundamental than our need for food and shelter. It is, Dr. Lieberman argues, the key to our success as a species, and one of the reasons we evolved large brains in the first place. Lieberman and others have discovered that when our brain is not focused on a specific task, it uses its spare time – its default network – to learn about and master the social world. We’ve been told that we need to commit 10,000 hours to become a master at complex skills such as chess, music, and math. Lieberman argues that each and every one of us has spent 10,000 hours learning to make sense of people and groups and our place in them by the time we are ten.
So many of us believe that physical pain and pleasure guide our actions. Yet new research by Lieberman and his UCLA colleagues using fMRI (frontal magnetic resonance imaging) shows that our brains respond to social pain and pleasure just as powerfully as they do the physical pain and pleasure. When asked what the most painful experiences in our lives have been, most of us do not recount an injury or broken limb – we describe the death of a loved one or the end of a marriage or relationship.
Fortunately, the brain has evolved sophisticated mechanisms for securing our place in the social world. We have a unique ability among species to “read” other people’s minds, to figure out their hopes, fears, and motivations, allowing us to effectively coordinate our lives with one another. This wiring in our brains allows us to restrain our selfish impulses for the greater social good. And it is the malfunctioning of this wiring that leads to the challenges in connecting with others that we see in autism.
Based on the latest, cutting-edge research, Social has startling real-world implications for how we work and live. The surprising insights revealed in this pioneering book suggest ways to improve learning in schools, make the workplace more productive, and improve our overall happiness and well-being.
Matthew 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. He is one of the foremost authorities in the world on the study of social neuroscience.