Social Brain

The brain is a social animal. Social connections such as a sense of status, etc., are as important as food, shelter and water for the brain. By experiencing others' emotions, we get to know each other, such as by sharing personal experiences.

Safe social connections with others are vital for the health and for good collaboration. Much work is required to create good collaboration as it is too easy to mis-read social cues and allow limbic responses to dominate. . Our memories of social interactions are vast. The social network involves the medial prefrontal cortex, the right and left ventrolateral cortex, the anterior cingulated cortex, insula and amygdale. The social network bias is something we are born with, ie new-born babies prefer a picture of a face. In our priorities of needs, social needs are on the same level for basic survival as food and water, ie threat and pain responses activate similar responses in the network as being ostracized. This challenges Maslow's hierarchy of needs which locates social needs in the middle. Social relatedness is, in fact, a primary need of the brain.

Importance of body language, especially facial expression, in developing relatedness. We need the visual interaction. The stronger the emotions, the greater the impact

There are "mirror neurons" that occur when someone does something you are familiar with, ie your brain mirrors others' behaviours after witnessing someone else's action. This activates the same circuits in your brain

Safe social connections with others are vital for health and for effective collaboration. Much work/interaction is required to create such refined collaboration as it is otherwise too easy to mis-read social cues and allow limbic responses to dominate

People are classified as friend or foe quickly (as with the reward or threat response); "foe" is the brain's default choice in the absence of positive cues. There are different brain circuits for handling friend or foe. "Friend" generates a "toward" emotional response which releases oxytocin (a pleasurable chemical). This explains why developing rapport with strangers can be important as it provides the chance to connect at a human level.

Deciding that someone is a foe or competitor results in your brain making accidental connections, misreading intent, becoming easily upset and discarding their good ideas.
Importance of quality & quantity of social connections - the brain thrives on quality social connections, ie happiness and performance increases with release of good chemicals like dopamine and oxytocins. Loneliness can increase risk of health issues like heart, etc. Loneliness generates a threat response

Loneliness is on the increase. Some reasons for this include

- technology replacing human interaction (we send e-mails and instant messages rather than talk to people plus use technology-based communication programs like Facebook, LinkedIn, Slack, Trello, etc; use virtual team workspaces; techniques like hot-desking, working part-time/flexible hours, etc all contribute to less socialisation, ie face-to-face communications; use of headphones, ie
"...We don't have work families anymore. There's this sense that nobody knows you and you don't know other people..."
Jo Carnegie 2018...")

- heavier workloads (resulting in less socialisation)

- increasing popularity of working from home (decreasing face-to-face contact)

Research showing that chronic long-term loneliness can affect your health as much as obesity, smoking, lack of exercise, poor nutrition, etc.

Need to encourage social conversations and workplace connections (face-to-face contact), ie need to get to know other people with whom you are working.

People who have effective, positive social networks (thus less threat) perform better, eg better thinking (including creativity, seeing others' points of view, etc), planning, controlling emotions, etc.

Verbalising an idea activates more parts of your brain (including memory and language regions and motor centres) than just thinking about it. This improves your learning, retention, etc.

Key point:

. Whenever you meet somebody new, endeavour to connect at a human level as soon as possible to reduce the threat response; share personal experience, stories, etc; actively encourage people to connect on a human level.


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