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Social: Why Our Brains Are Wired to Connect Hardcover – October 8, 2013


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Crown; First Edition edition (October 8, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307889092
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307889096
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 1.3 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (92 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #245,134 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

It seems natural that when a person is rewarded with a cash prize there is intense activity in the pleasure centers of his or her brain. But why do we experience neurally identical pleasure when giving away money? Why is the emotional pain of being left out of a game of catch identical to that of physical injury? Using the latest research in neuroscience, Lieberman, an award-winning social psychologist, shows readers how their brains may be wired, first and foremost, to harmonize and connect with others, rather than simply to act in their own interests. With the help of new functional MRI technology, Lieberman explores the surprising new science of social interaction, investigating how our perceptions of others affect our cognition and, even more elementally, how social interaction and its absence can produce the same mental responses as physical pain and pleasure, as well as what that fact might mean about the evolution of the brain. Lieberman's findings are convincing: over the course of their evolution, humans have developed sophisticated means of responding to group challenges and the norms of altruism and cohesion have become ingrained in neural biology. The end of the book outlines how to integrate social cognition into teaching and management. Social is a far-ranging and sometimes long-winded introduction to how humans think together. Agent: Max Brockman, Brockman Inc. (Oct.)

From Booklist

Do we really know what drives us? Compelling evidence is emerging that shows that, more than money or other extrinsic incentives, the human brain gets a hefty reward by forging connections with others. That evidence, much of it uncovered by Lieberman, a pioneer of social cognitive neuroscience, is presented in a collegial manner in this often-surprising account. He contends that the human brain has been primed by evolution to view the world in social terms. With the details from study after study, many of them based on imaging scans that examine activity in certain parts of the brain, Lieberman’s book is perfect for Malcolm Gladwell fans who want to delve much deeper into the biology behind our social abilities. The investigations reveal the impressive social abilities we hold, often unappreciated but noticeable when lacking in others, and so ingrained they may influence our very sense of self. The book provides anecdotes and insights sure to be shared with others because, after all, we’re social creatures. --Bridget Thoreson

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Customer Reviews

Glad I bought this Book--I plan to give it to my friends.
Madison Maron
I really enjoyed this book, because it was easy to understand and very interesting material.
Cee37
This book allows people to understand a little better why we behave the way we do.
Donald L. Delong

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

34 of 38 people found the following review helpful By B. Case TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on September 2, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
"Social: Why Our Brains are Wired to Connect," by Matthew Lieberman, is an outstanding and fascinating layperson's guide to the new field of social cognitive neuroscience--an interdisciplinary field that "uses the tools of neuroscience to study the mental mechanisms that create, frame, regulate, and respond to our experience of the social world." In the process of investigating these mechanisms, this science advances our knowledge of the evolutionary path that continue to mold our social brain. The book seeks to answer: why are we wired to connect socially; what advantages did our species gain by evolving along this evolutionary path; how can we use this knowledge to improve society?

This is the perhaps the fifth layperson's guide to neuroscience that I've read in the past few years. Not all have been easy or pleasurable to read. Much of neurology seems inherently difficult, but it doesn't have to be. It the right hands it can be accessible and mesmerizing. In my estimation, this book compares very well to last year's bestselling neuroscience book by V. S. Ramachandran entitled, "The Tell-Tale Brain: A Neuroscientist's Quest for What Makes Us Human." If you are not familiar with Ramachandran, saying this is high praise for Lieberman and this book. After all, Ramachandran is considered one of the leading lights of the academic neuroscience community. He is also a profoundly gifted writer. Lieberman is not far behind; like Ramachandran, he shows an extraordinary ability to convey difficult concepts clearly and personably.

I've always loved psychology. Over my lifetime, I've read at least a master's degree equivalent of academic psychology books.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Nicholas Sterling VINE VOICE on September 26, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Let me say up front that I enjoyed this book, but I had some issues with it. Let me say what I did *not* like first, and then what I did.

The title ends "Why Our Brains Are Wired to Connect," leading the reader to expect this book to be largely about evolutionary psychology -- explaining *why* the brain does what it does requires investigating the adaptive value of brain features over the history of humans and beyond. That is absolutely *not* what this book is about. Just striking the word "Why" from the title would make it much more appropriate to the book's actual content.

In fact, there were places where I thought the author *should* have dived into the evolutionary mechanics but did not. For example, in the discussion about altruism there was nothing about the fact that altruism is perfectly explained when you stop focusing on individuals as the unit of selection and correctly focus on the genes themselves. No mention of Tit-for-Tat and related strategies, ESSes, or anything of the sort. In fact the author seemed to imply that explanations from other quarters got it wrong, and the book was setting the record straight. Hmmm. In another section the author talked about our social wiring as though it had evolved for the good of the species, but again, evolution operates primarily at the level of genes, not species. A gene or gene combination that makes an organism more successful at reproducing will increase in frequency in a population, that's all -- evolution is not a mystic hand trying to make a better species. A for-the-good-of-the-species argument is not a good one.

The margins of my copy of the book are filled with notes, many of which are objections to conclusions drawn or the way something was presented.
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21 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Philip Henderson VINE VOICE on September 10, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Lieberman has taken a difficult subject, how the social life of humans is mediated in the brain, and written a book that will help a layman understand. The social life of humans is similar to the life of fish in water. Fish do not notice water because it is everywhere and necessary. The social life of humans is always taking control of our understanding of our everyday life. We have no life without our social world. Liberman makes this subject fun to read. Just enough reference to brain structures to demonstrate that he knows what he is doing, not so much that you feel a need to study brain anatomy. The book is fast paced and clear. I will recommend it to my clients who study leadership. There is a lot of practical suggestions in this book.

This is an example of a university professor taking his careful scientific research and turning it into an accessible book for a layperson. The stories he writes about his research are illuminating and striking. This is a page turner that makes a reader want to learn more about our wonderful human brain. Lieberman is on the cutting edge of understanding how our brain presents the world to human understanding. I am grateful that he has taken time to share his work with the public when he could have used his time publishing in scientific journals. I like it when scientists make the effort to release their important findings to the public.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
The author sets out to tell us that human brains have evolved to weigh social considerations, our interactions with other people, far more heavily than we realize. Unfortunately, he chooses to accomplish this by telling us we never had any idea that they were important at all. Everyone knows social factors matter. Even when you're fed up with everyone and just want to be left alone to read a book or play with your toys, you rely on others to write the book or make the toys. And you always rely on others for food, protection, healthcare, hey, for existence--even if you care nothing for love, companionship, stimulation and other pure social joys. On the flip side, interactions with people can be deadly, so you have to care. There may be a few hermits who live solitary and self-sufficient lives, but everyone knows they are both rare and weird.

This is not a single annoying sentence at the beginning of the book, it is pounded home every few pages. For example, "People often talk as if their company, job, or workplace is solely about getting a paycheck and helping the company increase profits. This is all predicated on the norm of self-interest--the belief that material self-interest is the only thing that motivates people individually and corporately. We have been bombarded with this idea for so long that it's the only conversation we know how to have about the workplace." Huh? Someone may be following the author around bombarding him, but I have seldom heard that idea expressed. Read any book, watch any movie or TV show, and you see it's about people pursuing goals with respect to other people: love, sex, respect, kindness, fear and lots of other stuff. Most organizations are not for-profit corporations, they have explicit social goals and often no material ones.
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