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Once Upon A Bookshelf

Where Fiction and Reality Meet

Social: Why Our Brains are Wired to Connect

Author: Matthew D. Lieberman
Originally Published: 2013
Publisher: Crown Publishers
Source: Received a copy from the publisher

The Story

SOCIALFrom Amazon:

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.

The Response

I debated posting about this at all, but because of the subject matter really want to give it some coverage. It’s a great concept, it really is. It sounds like it should be both educational and interesting. The Preface itself was very good reading… But I couldn’t really get much more further than that.

I hate not finishing books, so it was a struggle for me to decide not to finish it. For the past 2 weeks, I have been avoiding reading in general because I felt badly about reading something other than this book – I wanted to enjoy it and felt guilty that I wasn’t.

While it sounds like this book would be great for anyone who was looking to understand more about how we, as humans, relate to other humans. But… I think that this book is probably better for those who already have at least a bit of an understand of neuroscience.

I’ll be honest. I read the first two parts of the book. That’s the first four of 12 chapters. As much as I tried to, I couldn’t push myself past that point. It presented a lot of concepts in a difficult to understand manner. It may have just been the language that was used, but a lot of what was presented was so beyond my knowledge base that I had a very difficult time comprehending what the author was talking about, and due to that, I really had no strong desire to keep pursuing this book.

From what I read, it sounds like this was all well researched. Lieberman, his wife, and some additional people, spent a lot of time researching the material that was presented in this book. Unfortunately, I don’t feel that this material was translated into a well-readable-for-the-general-public form.

The Bottom Line

While I’m certain that this would be an interesting book if you already knew neuroscience basics, I found it was too technical for me to be able to comprehend what was presented. This, unfortunately took away the enjoyment of and interesting in reading this book.

Posted by Courtney Wilson @ 8:02 am November 22, 2013.
Category: Non-Fiction
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