Book Review: Social – Why Our Brains are Wired to Connect


“Why do we do what we do?  What are humans hungry for?  Why?”   Lieberman wrote a book taking a physiological tack at the human problem.   What is this social urge?  Where does it come from?  What makes our brains do the things they do?  He did testing with MRI machines and looked at which parts of the brain lit up for various events.

Lots of items of interest in this book!   I picked up any number of great nuggets of information, including the fact that, “Our brains evolved to experience threats to our social connection in much the same way they experience physical pain”, as well as confirming other reading I’d done about the approximate maximum size a person’s friend group is (150 – not much different than Aristotle would tell you).   It’s INTERESTING how much of our energy we put into other humans, and how profound our need is for other people.

Reading fiction and avoiding botox is good for your social IQ, and a mirror can help you with your efforts in self-control.   Change in your personal income doesn’t actually make you happier.   Watching people makes you better at figuring them out, which makes you better at life.    Some very interesting observations about the autistic community.

So what have we learned thus far?   PEOPLE ARE IMPORTANT.  Community is important, incredibly important.   But what do we do about that?  Hmmm… well, first one identifies the problem, then one works on solving the problem.   That’s not what this book is for, although it did have some interesting things to say on theories of education.  (Teach them WHY and WHAT will follow – this is true for me, I do much better if you tell me “why”).

Having given Bowling Alone five stars, this book gets four.   It didn’t go in depth as much as I’d have liked on the results of the tests, preferring discussion of the brain itself.   There were any number of paragraphs and pages that could have been twice the length they were!  Not bad info, just… hello – can you expand on that a bit please?

Would you be interested in this book?   If you’re interested in the info nuggets, yes.  I think if you were just there for the nuggets, you could easily skim the other 1/2 the book about the way the testing was set up and which bits of the brain did what.  Grab it from the library sometime if you’re bored.

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