The Neural Signatures of Social Life
Given the importance and complexity of the social networks in which we ae embedded it makes sense to think that the effectively navigating interactions within these networks requires efficient mechanisms for processing complex social information about network members. This ability is so important that it may be among the foremost computational challenges that influenced our evolution, particularly the dramatic development of our “social brains.” This talk considers a set of findings from socializing cognitive social neuroscience that captures neural and social network data at multiple time points for interacting groups. One group involves students who volunteered to organize workers in very difficult social situations on the 50th anniversary of Freedom Summer, in the summer of respect movement. Other groups are task and leadership groups from a professional school. We believe that we can identify neural mechanisms for the reproduction of inequality in popularity in small groups. We likewise discover a truly interpersonal mechanism for the emergence of reciprocity, the building block of social solidarity. We show that we can predict from neural signatures who group members will like five months in the future.
Peter Bearman is the Director of the Interdisciplinary Center for Innovative Theories and Empirics (INCITE) and the Cole Professor of Social Science at Columbia University. With Adam Reich, he is the author of Working for Respect: Conflict and Community at Walmart. (Forthcoming, Columbia University Press).