Friday, 22 November 2013

The social brain and its superpowers

Hello there......finally.  It's been a while :( 

All my energy and time has been going into a) my kids and b) developing our little school, which feels like it's coming on in leaps and bounds, I'm proud to say.  More on that in another blogpost.
This morning whilst getting ready for work, in true multi-taking style, I was also listening to the TEDx talk below.  I liked it so much I'm sharing it here.  It's by Matthew Lieberman and is called 'The social brain and its superpowers.'

The talk focuses on what social connectivity enables us to do.  Lieberman suggests that the ability to think about or predict what others are thinking about and imagine their responses gives us an unparalleled capacity for co-operation and collaboration.  Lieberman calls it 'a social superpower'.
He says that because we are hard-wired for social connection, we see actions in terms of the minds behind them.  It is proposed that becoming more social or honing this power is the secret to making us smarter, happier and more productive.
He also says that more often than not, we forget or overlook the importance of social competence.  I have written about the impact of this on education here.  Lieberman gives an example of what he means in a classroom - if a child learns in order to teach someone else then s/he will learn better than s/he would if learning in order to take a test.  He states that research in his and another lab has shown that if we are socially motivated to learn then we learn better than we would when using the analytical capacity of the brain.  Now that is definitely food for thought in my book.
Lieberman looks at what makes a great leader and suggests that great leaders generally have increased social competence, which allows them to leverage the analytical skills and creative abilities of those around them.  They are able to make teams more productive.  He also observes that if we are working in a well connected team, each of us will work to complement both the strengths and weaknesses of others so that we function optimally as an integrated whole.

He concludes by looking at how social connection is one of the best predictors of happiness and emotional wellbeing.