2012-11-04T23:23:17+01:00

We are wired to connect

Here are my notes form book Social Intelligence by Daniel Goleman

  • p4 The most fundamental revelation of this new discipline: we are wired to connect.
  • p5 That link is a double-edged sword: nourishing relationships have a beneficial impact on out health, while toxic ones can act like slow poison in our bodies.
  • p7 In 2003 single-person households became the most common living arrangement in the United States. And while once families would gather together in the evening, now children, parents, and spouses find it increasingly difficult to spend time together.
  • p10 The most telling news here may be that the social brain represents the only biological system in our bodies that continually attunes us to, and in turn becomes influenced by, the internal stato of people we're with. All other biological systems, from our lymphatic glands to our spleen, mainly regulate their activity in response to signals emerging from within the body, not beyond our skin. The pathways of the social brain are unique in their sensitivity to the world at large. Whenever we connect face to face (or voice to voice, or skin to skin) with someone else, our social brains interlock.
  • p11 ... psychologist Edward Thorndike created the original formulation of "social intelligence." One way he defined it was as "the ability to understand and manage men and women," skills we all need to live well in the world.
  • p12 The biological influence passing from person to person suggests a new dimension of a life well lived: conducting ourselves in ways that are beneficial even at this subtle level for those with whom we connect.
  • p17 Man is not a rational animal, but a rationalizing one. --Robert Heinlein
  • p19 When I wish to find out how good or how wicked anyone is, or what are his thoughts at the moment, I fashion the expression of my face, as accurately as possible, in accordance with the expression of his, and then wait to see what thoughts or sentiments arise in my own mind or heart, as if to match or correspond with the expression. --Edgar Allan Poe
  • p23 Gardner admitted that one of the things that attracted her to the charming bigamist was what she called "that honest trait": he looked her directly in the eyes, smiling, even as he lied through his teeth.
  • p34 But beneath this visible synchrony, the musicians are joined in a way an audience can never know: in their brains. If any two of those musicians were to have their neural activity measured during their rapture, it would show a remarkable synchronicity. For instance, when two cellists play the same bit of music, the rhythms of neural firing in their right hemispheres are extraordinary close. The synchrony of these zones for musical abilities is far greater across brains of the two than os the case for the left and right hemispheres within each brain.
  • p37 These session are a kind of tutorial: the protoconversation marks a baby's first lesson in how to interact. We learn how to synchronize emotionally long before we have words for those feelings. Protoconversations remain our most basic template for interacting, a tacit awareness that quietly gets us in step as we link with someone else. The ability to get into synch as we did when we were babies serves us through life, guiding us in every social interaction.
  • p43 Stern concludes that our nervous systems "are constructed to be captured by the nervous systems of others, so that we can experience others as if from within their skin." At such moments we resonate with their experience, and they with ours. We can no longer, Stern adds, "see our minds as so independent, separate and isolated," but instead we must view them as "permeable," continually interacting as though joined by an invisible link.
  • p48 Plays, concerts and movies all let us enter a shared field of emotions with large number of strangers. Looping together in an upbeat register is, as psychologists like to say, "inherently reinforcing" - that is, it makes everyone feel good.
  • p54 In short, self-absorption in all its forms kills empathy, let alone compassion. When we focus on ourselves, out world contract as our problems and preoccupations look large. But when we focus on others, out world expands. Our own problems drift to the periphery of the mind and so seem smaller, and we increase our capacity for connection - or compassionate action.
  • p57 As the legendary acting coach advised, "We must study other people and get as close to them emotionally as we can, until sympathy for them is translated into feelings of our own."
  • p58 In today's psychology, the world "empathy" is used in three distinct senses: knowing another person's feelings; feeling what that person feels; and responding compassionately to another's distress. These three varieties of empathy seem to describe a 1-2-3 sequence: I notice you, I feel with you, and so I act to help you.
  • p60 When we see someone else in distress, similar circuits reverberate in our brain, a kind of hardwired empathic resonance that becomes the prelude to compassion.
  • p62 As Preston and de Waal note, In today's era of e-mail, commuting, frequent moves, and bedroom communities, the scales are increasingly tipped against the automatic and accurate perception of others' emotional state, without which empathy is impossible. Modern-day social and virtual distance have created an anomaly in human living, though one we now take to be the norm. This separation mutes empathy, absent which altruism falters.
  • p63 Neuroscience now tells us something akin to the poetic idea that the eyes are windows on the soul: the eyes offer glimpses into a person's most private feelings. More specifically, the eyes contain nerve projections that lead directly to a key brain structure for empathy and matching emotions, the orbitofrontal (or OFC) area of the prefrontal cortex.
  • p69 The OFC, drawing on data such as context, strikes a balance between a primal impulse (get out of here) and what works best (make an acceptable excuse for leaving). We experience what the OFC decides not as a conscious understanding of the rules guiding the decision but as a feeling of "rightness." In short, the OFC helps guide what we do once we know how we feel about someone. By inhibiting raw impulse, the OFC orchestrates actions that serve us well - at the very least, by keeping us from doing or saying something we would regret.
  • p74 Something like the out-of-place sex talk in the lab has been documented ever since the earliest years of the Internet: "flaming," in which adults make childishly offensive comments online. Ordinarily the high road keeps us within bounds. But the Internet lacks the sort of feedback the OFC needs to help us stay on track socially.
  • p75 As we alter our perceptions, we can change our emotions.
  • p76 Pain is not due to the thing itself, but to your estimate of it, and this you have the power to revoke at any moment. --Marcus Aurelius
  • p83 It's a display of the highest order of neural jujitsu, transforming the boys' shared emotional chemistry from a hostile range to a positive one -sheer relationship brilliance.
  • p85 Even though we can stop talking, we cannot stop sending signals (our tone of voice, our fleeting expressions) about whet we feel. Even when people try to suppress all signs of their emotions, feelings have a way of leaking anyway. In this sense, when it comes to emotions, we cannot not communicate.
  • p88 Listening well has been found to distinguish the best managers, teachers, and leaders.
  • p94 Our society has subtle norms for who "should" express what emotions, implicitly constraining both men and women. In private life, women are generally perceived as more appropriately expressing fear and sadness, and men anger - a norm that tacitly approves of a woman crying openly but frowns on men shedding tears when upset. In professional situations, however, the taboo against crying extends to women. And when a woman holds a position of power, the prohibition on showing anger evaporates. On the contrary, a powerful leader is expected to display anger when a group's goal has been frustrated. Alpha women, it seems, meet the entrance requirement. Regardless of whether anger is the most effective response in a given moment, it does not seem socially out of place when it comes from the boss.
  • p99 When I trusted my gut, I was more often right. As cognitive science tells us, we know more than we can say. To put it differently, this low-road job goes best when the high road just shuts up.
  • p100 A focus on cognition about relationships neglects essential noncognitive abilities like primal empathy and synchrony, and it ignores capacities like concern. A purely cognitive perspective slights the essential brain-to-brain social glue that builds the foundation for any interaction.
  • p101 Now social neuroscience challenges intelligence theorists to find a definition for our interpersonal abilities that encompasses the talents of the low road - including capacities for getting in sync, for attuned listening, and for empathic concern.
  • p105 Beber coined the term "I-It" for the range of relations that runs from merely detached to utterly exploitative. In that spectrum others become objects: we treat someone more as a thing than as a person.
  • p108 Amae points to the empirical fact that we attune most readily with the people in our lives we know and love - our immediate family and relatives, lovers or spouses, old friends. The closer we are, the more amae.
  • p109 At the neural level, my "getting to know you" means my acquiring a resonance with with your emotional patterns and mental maps. And the more our maps overlap, the more identified we feel and the greater the shared reality we create.
  • p117 The Dark Triad
  • p117 "How could you do such a terrible thing to people? Didn't you feel any pity for them?" To which the killer replied very matter-of-factly, "Oh, no - I had to turn that part of me off. If I had felt any of their distress, I couldn't have done it."
  • p117 When being tuned out of caring is a person's defining trait, they typically belong to one of the types that psychologists dub "the Dark Triad": narcissists, Machiavellians, and psychopaths.
  • p119 Such ambitious and self-confident leaders can be effective in the present cutthroat business world. The best are creative strategists who can grasp the big picture and navigate risky challenges to leave a positive legacy. Productive narcissists combine a justified self-confidence with openness to criticism - at least to criticism that comes from confidants.
  • p122 The narcissistic organization becomes a moral universe of its own, a world where its goals, goodness, and means are not questioned but taken as holy writ. It's a world where doing whatever we need to, to get whatever we want, seems perfectly fine. The ongoing self-celebration fogs over how divorced from reality we've become. The rules don't apply to us, just to the others.
  • p123 According to one standard test, a narcissist is someone who has a grandiose sense of self-importance, harbors obsessive fantasies of unbounded glory, feels rage or intense shame when criticized, expects special favors, and lacks empathy. That deficiency in empathy means narcissists remain oblivious to the self-centered abrasiveness that others see in them so clearly.
  • p125 When Niccolò Machiavelli wrote The Prince, the sixteenth-century manual for seizing and holding political power through cunning manipulation, he took for granted that the aspiring ruler had only his own interests at heart, caring not at all about the people he rules nor those he crushed to gain power. For Machiavellian, the ends justify the means, no matter what human pain he may cause.
  • p128 The coolheadedness means that psychopaths can be dangerous in ways rarely seen in Machs or narcissists. Because psychopaths feel no anticipatory fears, staying utterly calm under even the most intense pressure, they are virtually oblivious to the threat of punishment. This indifference to consequences that keep others lawabiding makes psychopaths the most likely candidates for prison among the Dark Triad.
  • p129 Like Machs, psychopaths can be adept at social cognition, learning to get inside someone's head to surmise their thoughts and feelings so they can "push all the right buttons." They can be socially smooth, believing that "even when others are upset with me, I can usually win them over with my charm." Some criminal psychopaths make a point of reading self-help books to better learn how to manipulate their targets - something like a "paint-by-numbers" approach to getting what they want.
  • p131 The basic emotions of anger, fear, and joy are all hardwired into the brain or soon afterward, but social emotions require self-consciousness, a capacity that begins to emerge in the second year of life as a child's orbitofrontal region grows more mature. At around fourteen months babies start recognizing themselves in a mirror. This recognition of oneself as a unique entity brings the reciprocal understanding that other people are separate too - and the ability to feel mortified about what others may think of us.
  • p131 But as the realization dawns that she is a separate person, someone others can notice, she has all the ingredients for feeling embarrassed - typically a child's first social emotion. It requires her to be aware not only of how others feel about her, but of how she ought to feel in turn.
  • p134 Freud proposed that all jokes juxtapose two different frames on reality.
  • p134 This ability to apprehend what seems to be going through someone else's mind is one of our most invaluable human skills.
  • p135 Children younger than eighteen months will generally offer the snack they like; older ones will offer the snack you preferred. The older toddlers have recognized that their own likes and dislikes can differ from other people's, and that others may think differently than they.
  • p136 As growing children master these social lessons - typically in their fourth year - their empathy approaches that of an adult. With this maturity, part of innocence ends: children become clear about the difference between what they merely imagine and what actually happens.
  • p136 Mind sight stands as a prerequisite for younger children's ability to joke, or to get a joke. Teasing, tricks, lying, and being mean all demand this same sense of the other's inner world. Deficiency in these capacities sets autistic children apart from those who develop a normal social repertoire.
  • p138 We are all mindreaders.
  • p139 Baron-Cohen devised a test to determine how easily someone senses what others feel. The test is called the EQ, for "empathy quotient", and women on average outscore men. Women also outscore men measures of social cognition like understanding what would be a faux pas in a given social situation, and on empathic accuracy, intuiting what another person would be feeling or thinking. Finally women tend to outscore men on Baron-Cohen's test of reading a person's feelings from their eyes alone. But when it comes to systems thinking, the advantage tips to the male brain.
  • p152 Like a plant adapting to rich or to depleted soil, a child's brain shapes itself to fit its social ecology, particularly the emotional climate fostered by the main people in her life.
  • p189 In the terrain of the human heart, scientists tell us, at least three independent but interrelated brain systems are at play, all moving us in their own way. To untangle love's mysteries, neuroscience distinguishes between neural networks for attachment, for care giving, and for sex. Each is fueled by a different set of brain chemicals and hormones, and each runs through a disparate neuronal circuit. Each adds its own chemical spice to the many varieties of love. Attachment determines who we turn to for succor; these are the people we miss the most when they are absent. Care giving gives us the urge to nurture the people for whom we feel most concern. When we are attached, we cling; when we are care giving we provide. And sex is, well, sex. ... When attachment entwines with caring and sexual attraction, we can savor full-blown romance. But when any of these three goes missing, romantic love stumbles.
  • p192 Panksepp finds a neural corollary between the dynamics of opiate addiction and our dependence on the people fro whom we feel our strongest attachments. All positive interactions with people, he proposes, owe part of their pleasure to the opioid system, the very circuitry that links with heroin and other addictive substances.
  • p193 Panksepp theorizes that the gratification that addicts get from their drugs biologically mimics the natural pleasure we get from feeling connected to those we love; the neural circuitry for both are largely shared. Even animals, he finds, prefer to spend time with those in whose presence they have secreted oxytocin and natural opioids, which induce a relaxed serenity - suggesting that these brain chemicals cement our family ties and friendships as well as our love relationships.
  • p193 That poignant exchange illustrates how differences in attachment styles can put a couple out of synch - in dealing not only with a shared trauma but with virtually everything else.
  • p199 "Men look for sex objects, and women for success objects."
  • p204 "What does women want?" As Epstein answers, "She wants a partner who cares what she wants."
  • p218 On the other hand, something rather remarkable tends to happen with couples who live together for decades, finding happiness with each other. Their continual rapport even seems to leave its mark on their faces, which comes to resemble each other, apparently a result of the sculpting of facial muscles, as partners smile or frown in unison they strengthen the parallel set of muscles.
  • p219 "Indifference - not caring about, or even paying attention to, your mate - is one of the worst forms of cruelty in marriage."
  • p219 In dating couples, the most important predictor of whether the relationship will last is how many good feelings the couple shares. In marriages, it's how well the couple can handle their conflicts. And in the later years of a long marriage, it's again how many good feelings the couple shares.
  • p232 The social brain makes a crucial distinction between accidental and intentional harm, and it reacts more strongly if it seems malevolent.
  • p273 The hippocampus is especially vulnerable to ongoing emotional distress, because of the damaging effects of cortisol. Under prolonged stress, cortisol attacks the neurons of the hippocampus, slowing the rate at which neurons are added or even reducing the total number, with a disastrous impact on learning.
  • p275 Many effective leaders sense that - like compliments - well-titrated doses of irritation can energize. The measure of how well callibrated a message of displeasure might be is whether it moves people toward their performance peak or plummets them past the tipping point into the zone where distress corrodes performance.
  • p278 No child can avoid emotional pain while growing up, and likewise emotional toxicity seems to be a normal by-product of organizational life - people are fired, unfair policies come from headquarters, frustrated employees turn in anger on others.
  • p281 "So often behavior problems are because a student feels insecure about being unable to do the work," Pamela told me. "Maeva couldn't even sound out words. I was shocked she had gotten to sixth grade without learning how to read."
  • p299 Once the others are set at a psychological distance, they can become a target for hostility.
  • p300 But once a negative bias begins, out lenses become clouded. We tend to seize on whatever seems to confirm the bias and ignore what does not. Prejudice, in this sense, is a hypothesis desperately trying to prove itself to us. And so when we encounter someone to whom the prejudice might apply, the bias skews our perception, making it impossible to test whether the stereotype actually fits. Openly hostile stereotypes about a group - to the extent they rest on untested assumptions - are mental categories gone awry.
  • p304 Pettigrew said. "For example, acts of violence against minorities are much more frequent in the former East Germany than West. When we studied those arrested for such violence, we found two things: they are intensely prejudice, and they have had virtually no conntect with the groups they hate so much."
  • p306 From social psychology he knew one dynamic of moving from Them to Us: as people from hostile groups work together toward a common goal, they end up liking one another.
  • p318 Vitality arises from sheer human contact, especially from loving connections. The people we are about most are an elixir of sorts, and ever-renewing source of energy. The neural exchange between a parent and child, a grandparent and a toddler, between lovers or a satisfied couple, or among good friends, has palpable virtues.
  • p319 "We must love one another or die." --W. H. Auden

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