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Social: Why Our Brains Are Wired to Connect Paperback – Illustrated, 1 January 1900

4.6 out of 5 stars 413 ratings

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"We are an intensely social species. Everyone knows that. But, from that basic truth, Matthew Lieberman mines a mother lode of insights that are both unexpected and genuinely worth using to better our lives." -Robert B. Cialdini, author of Influence

Absolutely fascinating -- necessary, even. -Brain Pickings

"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... 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." -Booklist

"Social reveals that our brains are made for connecting, not only for thinking. Matt Lieberman, a pioneering expert in social neuroscience, explains why fairness tastes like chocolate, why heartache can hurt more than a headache, and how we can use this knowledge to improve our lives at home, school, and work." -Adam Grant, Wharton professor and bestselling author of Give and Take

Social is the book I've been waiting for: a brilliant and beautiful exploration of how and why we are wired together, by one of the field's most prescient pioneers. -Daniel Gilbert, professor, Harvard University, bestselling author of Stumbling On Happiness

"Social is as full of surprising twists and insights as a Dan Brown novel (and as fun to read, too). Social unmasks the secret to our success as a species - our fundamentally social nature - and explains the origins, brain bases, and everyday applicability of our social superpowers." -Kevin Ochsner, professor, Columbia University

One of the most compelling and engaging books about how human beings really work that I've ever read. It literally changed how I see the world. -David Rock, director, NeuroLeadership Institute, author of Your Brain at Work

"At last, a book that really does put the social into social neuroscience, and, more importantly, does it in a way that layman and scientist alike can read with pleasure." -Robin Dunbar, Professor, University of Oxford

Vivid stories and cutting-edge neuroscience come together to explain just how connected we really are. Lieberman's prose is fluid, and his ideas fascinating, making Social a must-read pleasure for anyone who cares about the human condition and the science that reveals us as social beings. - Susan Fiske, Professor, Princeton University

"This fascinating, beautifully written book brings the exciting research on our social nature and the brain to life"
- Shelley Taylor, distinguished professor, UCLA, author of The Tending Instinct

Humans are exquisitely social. This is a beautifully written and compelling account of how and why this is the case, written by one of the world's leading authorities on the social brain. Matthew Lieberman covers multiple areas of cutting edge research, including studies of primate social groups, the psychology of human love and friendship, and the brain basis of empathy and altruism. This captivating book will enthrall a very wide audience, from the general reader who has no previous knowledge of the brain to students and academics in the field of cognitive neuroscience and social psychology.
- Sarah-Jayne Blakemore, Professor, University College of London

A highly engaging read from one of the pioneers of the emerging field of social cognitive neuroscience. By reviewing what has recently been discovered about unique human talents, such as self-control, mindreading, empathy, Lieberman presents a compelling case that the human brain is wired to be social. Highly recommended for its accessible introduction to social neuroscience as well as its practical lessons for living more satisfying lives. -Todd Heatherton, Lincoln Filene Professor, Dartmouth College

In this engaging book, Mathew Lieberman, one of the leaders and pioneers in social neuroscience, shows how and why our brains are wired to connect, how that influences what we think, feel, and do, and makes it clear why it matters. -Walter Mischel, Niven Professor of Humane Letters in Psychology, Columbia University

The scientific field that became cognitive neuroscience began in the 19th century, strangely enough, with discoveries on the human brain's language processing. Not long after, however, the isolated case of Phineas Gage tumbled onto the scene and announced, more than a century in advance, what would become social neuroscience. In "Social", Matthew Lieberman, one of the leaders of this now-established effort, provides a thoughtful and lively review of recent findings and of the implications for this important area of inquiry. -Antonio Damasio, USC professor and author of Descartes' Error and Self Comes to Mind

About the Author

Matthew D. Liebermanwas 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, an award given to one social psychologist every two years. He is one of the foremost authorities in the world on the study of Social Neuroscience.

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Product details

  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ 0307889106
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Crown Publishing Group (NY); Illustrated edition (1 January 1900)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 384 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 9780307889102
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-0307889102
  • Dimensions ‏ : ‎ 13.13 x 2.03 x 20.32 cm
  • Customer Reviews:
    4.6 out of 5 stars 413 ratings

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Top reviews from Australia

Reviewed in Australia on 28 April 2019
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5.0 out of 5 stars Best book I have ever read.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 18 February 2016
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5.0 out of 5 stars Best book I have ever read.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 18 February 2016
Matthew Lieberman’s book is good: it reads well, the structure is helpful and linear for the general-interest reader while also offering some depth for the detail-oriented bookworm or specialist. However, it sometimes overstretches in its interpretation of the brain activity generated in the experiments it considers. This is a classic problem, and the fact that it is starting to be solved within the neuro-science community means that the field is less likely to end up as the phrenology of the 21st century.

Lieberman makes clear that there are brain networks primarily in charge of social, self-referential and “mind-wandering” thoughts, and other networks that take care of problem-solving and analytical thinking, and these networks are both considered in building the case for how our brains make us human.

And two things for sure make us human: the fact that you can think what the other person thinks that you think (called higher-order theory of mind, and beautifully illustrated by the rock/paper/scissors game), and that we can project ourselves into the future (called long-term planning prediction and anticipation). No other animal can go that far; and the fact that humans created culture means that we have greatly complicated the inferences we can make regarding the evolutionary advantages of specific but complex behaviours such as altruism.

This apparently “human-only” characteristic is also well considered here, and it’s worth weighing Lieberman’s hypothesis about why we tend to avoid boasting about helping others and see it as a rewarding thing in itself.

Lieberman strikes me as an honest scientist, diligently searching for answers about why we feel pain on a psychological level (the end of a relationship, the death of a parent), or why we feel rewarded by praise or when we give money to strangers.

These are not new ideas, but Lieberman, like all original researchers, asks the right questions, looks for the best experiment to do, and tries to answer in light of real neural mechanisms. Classic social scientists are afraid of his kind. He is a threat to all those dark-matter classical psychologists who either backbench from half-dead theories or perform experiments sitting in their black boxes, where the mechanisms of “how behaviour happens” appear to have nothing to do with the workings of the brain.

I might not agree with some of the concepts Lieberman crafts from his experiments, but I am pleased that he shows determination in building a mechanistic, brain-grounded account of who we are. And surely one of the uses of this book should be as a spark to think about precisely that.

Lieberman the scientist is a firm believer in the theory that we are wired to connect, or, to put it rather better, that we have evolved, through natural selection, to be social animals that thrive now in almost all “ecosystems” using the unique feature of mentalising; and that we cannot avoid thinking, and thinking what the other person is thinking…capisce? He brings the book to a courageous conclusion in his attempt to use “social brain” concepts to guide policymaking. I cannot help but applaud any bid to use scientific evidence to back decisions for learning, business or politics in general. The way we are and how we think must be taken into account when deciding the kind of society we want – and the good news is that it can be based on real research into who we are.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Insightful, engaging and eye opening. Highly recommend
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 23 July 2020
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1.0 out of 5 stars UGH, I had such high hopes
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 24 January 2021
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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 21 September 2016
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5.0 out of 5 stars Fabulous read - I love this book
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 19 July 2018
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