What Is Social About the Human Brain

  • David D. Franks
Part of the SpringerBriefs in Sociology book series (BRIEFSSOCY)


What brains allow us to do socially is discussed. Early studies by Rene Spitz are described. These studies demonstrate what happens to infants who lack a working social environment. The psychological costs of such an environment to the infants (fear, depression, and lack of physical heath) are detailed. Other examples of maladies due to lack of human caring and attention are described in chemical terms are by Tredway et al. Work on the same subject by Damasio and LeDoux are described as well as Harlow’s monkeys that showed similar responses compared to the infants in the Spitz studies. The work of Mathew Lieberman in his book Social is presented and examples of the degree to which the brain is social are presented as well as the supporting brain parts that are involved in this sociability. The “Default Mode Network” is described as an automatic and causative mechanism that assures our sociality. Social and physical pain are addressed and examples are given as well as their supporting brain parts. The degree to which we are sensitive to rejection is exemplified by rejection caused merely by computer games. Replications of Lieberman’s work are described. Next, the concept of intersubjectivity is presented as well as why it is needed. Different epistemologies implied by intersubjectivity are considered. Next, why the assumption that we live in a common world is problematic is explained. The person as a “primitive concept” is addressed using past work by Leslie Brothers. The social implications of this are noted as well as the importance of noticing other’s eyes as in autistic syndromes.


Intersubjectivity Social pain Lieberman Infant isolation Depression Kangaroo care Opioids Default mode network Harlow’s monkeys Cingulate cortex 


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Copyright information

© The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • David D. Franks
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of SociologyVirginia Commonwealth UniversityRichmondUSA

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