The Social Mind: Brain Region Bigger in Popular People
An area ofِ the brain associatedِ with understanding theِ minds ofِ others isِ larger inِ people whoِ haveِ bigger social networks, a newِ study finds.
In research published lastِ year, scientists foundِ that someِ brain regions thatِ process social signals, facial expressions andِ names andِ faces areِ larger inِ people withِ moreِ Facebook friends.
The participants alsoِ completed someِ tests toِ determine howِ good theyِ were atِ mentalizing, orِ understanding anotherِ person’s mental state.
The social brain
Looking atِ these factors — size ofِ social network, brain anatomy andِ ability toِ mentalize — uncovered a trio ofِ links betweenِ allِ three.
People withِ larger social networks seemِ to haveِ larger orbital prefrontal cortexes, theِ researchers found.
The size ofِ the orbitofrontal cortex inِ particular determines howِ good youِ areِ at theseِ mentalizing skills, andِ these mentalizing skills, inِ turn, determine theِ number ofِ friends youِ have, Dunbar said.
Cause or effect?
It’s notِ entirelyِ clear fromِ the research whetherِ big orbital prefrontal cortexes areِ innate, orِ whether theyِ enlarge inِ response toِ gaining moreِ friends.
Certainly, Dunbar said, a functional orbital prefrontal cortex isِ key forِ understanding social situations — people withِ damage toِ theseِ regions areِ notoriously bad atِ interacting withِ others.
But theِ ultimate size ofِ anyِ brain region depends inِ part onِ howِ that area isِ used duringِ childhood.