Possibly better to read this the other way around

People who have lots of friends have certain parts of the brain that are bigger and better connected than those of less sociable types, research has found.

About six brain regions are larger in sociable people and the more friends someone has, the larger these regions are, scans showed.

One of the regions that was larger was the anterior cingulate cortex, which we use to keep track of what others are doing.

Connections between this area and another that is used to work out how others are feeling were especially strong in sociable people.


It’s one
of the great questions about the human brain: how and why did it get so damn big?

Various possible explanations exist: to process language perhaps. There’s also all sorts of implications of it being so big: one theory is that we eat meat in order to feed the brain. One obvious effect is that it makes giving birth difficult, getting that head through the pelvis. And that in turn leads to the very long development time of babies.

One of the theories is that there became a self-reinforcing cycle. Larger brains led to more sociability which in turn led to those with ever larger brains having more surviving children. Thus, by this theory, there’s a very strong link between sociability and the size of the brain.

Therefore, by this theory of course, these findings are interesting but not surprising: they’re what we would expect to find.

16 comments on “Possibly better to read this the other way around

  1. “People who have lots of friends have certain parts of the brain that are bigger and better connected than those of less sociable types, research has found.”
    Mmmm… But bearing in mind the skull is only so big… a bigger “sociability” area means something has to give way. Which might explain why “sociability” doesn’t necessarily equate with being all that bright. And very clever people are often less than sociable.

  2. All of this measuring bits of the brain thing, when we really only have a crude idea of how it works, always gives me a strong feeling that this is little more than phrenology.

  3. Mr in Spain, Turing was notoriously gauche. On the other hand, Dr Johnson held court to throngs. It’s all just a bit of this, and a bit of that, and who knows?

    Besides I’ve met some startlingly stupid people – right up until the moment they suddenly became clever. Criminals, mostly. Increasingly I think the word ‘intelligence’ is unfit for purpose by itself, it needs no end of qualifiers.

  4. But Johnson was a communicator, Mr Lud. A people person. And is adjudged a favourable example by literary scholars. Scholars of communication. More people people.
    In truth communicators, people people, are generally regarded higher than doers because it’s communicators who get to do all the deciding.
    Or to put it another way…the whole f****g world’s run by arts graduates.

  5. I have an occipital bun, so I’m probably part Neanderthal. Look upon my occipital lobes ye mighty, and despair.

  6. SBML-

    My wife’s head is massive, mine is small. She’s a chatterbox, whilst I’m quiet. Is there any correlation?

    It might be because you’re a baby.

  7. Mr in Spain, as you know, I communicate for a living. I’m also a complete Norman Nomates, which partly holes your theory. On the other hand, I have a humanities degree as well as my legal qualifications, and I couldn’t run a bath, which partly vindicates it.

    Trebles all round!

  8. Nah, it’s peacock’s tail, init? Some female chimp developed a taste for witty blokes and the whole thing unfolded with tedious inevitability, as Bill Bailey says.

  9. @Mr Lud
    After a lifetime’s perusal of letters from lawyers i was under the impression the whole point of legal was to say a very great deal without actually saying anything whatsoever. The net result being; the reader knows less at the end than they did when they started. Anti-communication in truth. Which, done intentionally, requires a great deal of smarts, indeed.
    The theory may still hold.

  10. And it occurs, lawyers may be the communicator’s natural predator, having evolved writs for libel & slander specifically for that purpose.

  11. Although he did have a coterie of admirers, from Boswell down, and was a kind man, Samuel Johnson was not ‘a people person’.

    He was off-putting to many, and though himself mad (he had lots of odd tics and was probably depressive). He was a genius, mind you.

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