The Brain’s Social Network

Notes by Howard Gardner

In recent years, evidence has accumulated that the practice of certain skills actually enhances the size of the brain areas dedicated to the particular skills-in-question.  We know that a regimen of juggling enhances motor cortex, even as, in a pre-GPS era, London cab drivers had larger hippocampi. Furthermore, if you stop juggling, the enhanced motor areas eventually shrink back to their earlier size.

The present study provides evidence that, in monkeys, the amount of social exposure (exposure to other monkeys) increases the size of cortex dedicated to social processing. In MI terms, we can say that enhanced interpersonal exposure has neural consequences and, by argument, also increases interpersonal intelligence. Note that it is possible, these days, to control the environment of monkeys in a way that we would not be allowed to do with human beings of any age. The authors go on to speculate that perhaps dedicated engagement with Facebook, or other social media, might also be reflected in the psychology and neurology of the individual(s) involved. I’d point out, however, that sheer contact with loads of members of your species does not equate with deeper or more appropriate knowledge of those individuals—be they monkeys or other primates.  In some cases, more neurons simply means, more neurons.

To read the article in its entirety, click here.