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Inspiring connections. Rewiring our hacked social brain with Dr Mark Williams.

Updated: May 17, 2022


Dr Mark Williams is a cognitive neuroscientist and has studied how the brain learns social cognition, as one of the most important skills for our survival. He is the author of

"The Connected Species":

How the evolution of the human brain explains and offers solutions for

societal challenges including racism, sexism, marginalisation, and extremism.

Mark writes in the introduction to his book that "Society is facing many crises including racism, sexism, marginalisation, and extremism. We seem to be splitting at the seams and people are looking for answers. Come on a journey, as we explore how our drive to connect has spurred us on to great innovations while also driving a wedge between groups and inciting people to commit horrendous acts. Together we will examine how human beings evolved from being “just another primate” to the most dominant species ever observed on earth".


Listen to Episode #88 of the Thriving Minds podcast were we discuss all things social.

WHO IS HOT OR NOT: The beginnings of FACEBOOK

James Hong and Jim Young were UC Berkeley students in 2000, during the dotcom crash, stumbled upon the power of the human need to be liked. They built for students to rate the “hotness” of photos of males and females uploaded to their site. Within a week of launching, it had reached almost two million page views per day. They became pioneers of social media and sowed the seeds for Facebook, Twitter, Tinder. Swiping left or right has made many a billionaire.

Dr Williams has spent 2 decades studying how the brain learns to be social. His studies and others have shown that social skills are some of the hardest skills to learn, unless we were lucky to be born with a good set of social genes. Therefore, socialising is easier for some people than others and developing social abilities is akin to learning a language or a musical instrument.

Some people are born to social extraverts and others to introverts, and this sets the sensitivity of the smoke detector. If people can practice reading new faces that arrive from outside their clan or family, engage in a variety of conversations, and understand the emotions of others, then the level of smoke detector is lowered. Social anxiety can be both a superpower that connects us or a super downer that destroys us. Listen to Dr Williams discuss this on episode #88 of the Thriving Minds podcast.

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