Brains are social

Your species evolved to be social. It’s how you killed mammoths. A bunch of you can kill a mammoth. One dude can’t. Unless he has a rocket launcher.

In your ancestral environment, social acceptance could be the difference between life and death. If you aren’t trustworthy, others could chase you out of the tribe. You starve, or get eaten by a grue.

Social effects are deep, subtle, and often automatic. For example, someone cuts you off in traffic, and you’re angry. Of course you are. It’s natural. But why is it natural? It’s not an affront to you personally. Your car was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. You don’t know the cut-offer. You’ll never see the cut-offer again. Nobody you know witnessed the event. So why is it so automatic for you to be upset?

Social information affects motivation. If your friends think that math is useless, you’ll come to believe it, too. Unless there’s other social information that contradicts their statements.

Social information even can distort your perception of physical reality. There are famous experiments where people in a group passed around two pieces of string. One was shorter than the other. Everyone in the group was an actor (that is, a professional liar), except for one poor schmuck. The actors all said that the short piece of string was longer than the long piece of string. What did the schmuck say?

Google it. The results are interesting.

Cyco is about individuals learning skills. At least, it was first developed for that. However, your brains are so profoundly social that we can’t ignore social effects on individual learning. More on that later.


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