Deeply social animals

In the ever emerging nature and nuture research, this NY Times article, written by Daniel Goleman, author of Emotional Intelligence (1996) and recently Social Intelligence (2006), reports the following:

“Such coordination of emotions, cardiovascular reactions or brain states between two people has been studied in mothers with their infants, marital partners arguing and even among people in meetings. Reviewing decades of such data, Lisa M. Diamond and Lisa G. Aspinwall, psychologists at the University of Utah, offer the infelicitous term “a mutually regulating psychobiological unit” to describe the merging of two discrete physiologies into a connected circuit. To the degree that this occurs, Dr. Diamond and Dr. Aspinwall argue, emotional closeness allows the biology of one person to influence that of the other.

John T. Cacioppo, director of the Center for Cognitive and Social Neuroscience at the University of Chicago, makes a parallel proposal: the emotional status of our main relationships has a significant impact on our overall pattern of cardiovascular and neuroendocrine activity. This radically expands the scope of biology and neuroscience from focusing on a single body or brain to looking at the interplay between two at a time.”

Anthropoligists of the ordinary have predicted and deduced this via observation for some time. Will all of what was leading anthropological research 30 years ago need to be restated in neurosciene terms before the pithy qualitative ‘what now’ and ‘what next’ questions can be picked up again? Are anthropologists better predictors than biologists of understanding what is human? Should a new interdisciplinary field be formed?

  • Harvey

    We’ll be trying to redevelop an Anthropology of the ordinary – of human nature – right here. Anthropologists (I, following my teacher Ray Birdwhistell, following G.H.Mead) try to observe the world. Beginning and continuing with ourselves, then others – from the “attachment” of infants with their m/others now becoming important in Child Development. We are coming to a much fuller appreciation of the human: much will be developed here (many years of observing, writing, thinking, observing…).

    I’m trying to “connect” with Developmental Psychologists and would love more company in these endeavors. I do think that human nature is at the core and crux of our dis/agreements – with neuroscience, with “strong” religion, and the history and politics of ideas. So, let’s move on. Appreciate your thoughts.