Building a Social Brain

Because we are a social species, humans have evolved a fundamental need to belong that encourages behaviors reflective of being good group members. From this perspective, the need for interpersonal attachments is a fundamental motive that has evolved for adaptive purposes. Effective groups shared food, provided mates, and helped care for offspring. As such, human survival has long depended on living within groups; banishment from the group was effectively a death sentence. Thus, the human brain is social at its core. What do you need to make a social brain? Or what does the brain need to do to allow it to be social? Given the fundamental need to belong, there needs to be a social brain system that monitors for signs of social inclusion or exclusion and alters behavior to forestall rejection or  resolve other social problems. In this chapter I have proposed that building a social brain requires four components, each of which involves distinct functional brain regions. First, people need self-awareness — to be aware of their behaviors so as to gauge them against societal or group norms. Second, people need to have a theory of mind — to understand how others are reacting to their behavior so as to predict how others will respond to them. Third, they need to be able to detect threats. Threat detection involves at least the amygdala and the anterior cingulate cortex, although the precise nature of their roles in threat detection remains somewhat unclear. The fourth component is the ability to self-regulate.


About Giorgio Bertini

Research Professor. Founder Director at Learning Change Project - Research on society, culture, art, neuroscience, cognition, critical thinking, intelligence, creativity, autopoiesis, self-organization, rhizomes, complexity, systems, networks, leadership, sustainability, thinkers, futures ++
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