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Subliminal 4: The Importance of Being Social

01/09/2013

The fundamental role of human social character. . . why Tylenol can mend a broken heart

There’s a good general explanation of our “Theory of Mind” which Dennett talks about as our agency detection system (sometimes hyperactive). Our inferring minds behind things is extremely useful since we are social animals. We seem to overdo it a bit though.

Mlodinow underscores the importance of social interaction in humans. Humans with more social interaction have lower morbidity rates (uh-oh), brain size seems to correspond to size of social groups across mammalian species, many social interactions involving cooperations lead to the release of pleasurable neurotransmitters, and so on. He weaves in the subconscious aspect of this a little later, pointing to research on social scripts, in which people follow certain unthinking patterns of behavior.

Kindle Notes:

Called “theory of mind,” or “ToM,” this ability gives humans a remarkable power to make sense of other people’s past behavior and to predict how their behavior will unfold given their present or future circumstances (1455).

Our tendency to automatically infer mental states is so powerful that we apply it not only to other people but to animals and even, as the six-month-olds did in the wooden disk study I described above, to inanimate geometrical shapes (1460).

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