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Monday, July 16, 2018

Work the Social Brain Network to Get Ahead

To communicate more effectively and increase your opportunities for advancement, you need to exercise your social brain network—regions of the cortex that are activated when we need to interpret the behavior, intentions, and appearance of other people.

Studying interactions among both humans and primates has revealed that the structure of a person’s social brain network is strongly influenced by the shape of their social network.

In some social networks, all the members know one another independently, while in others, certain people act as hubs indirectly connecting individuals and groups who otherwise wouldn’t know each other. Research has found that their exposure to more diverse perspectives confers a host of benefits to those in the hub position, labeled “information brokers.” They’re not only better at problem-solving but also more likely to accrue faster promotion and higher pay.

In one 2017 study, teenagers’ brains were scanned as they made decisions about whether to recommend various products to friends in their Facebook network. The researchers found that those who were information brokers used their social brain network more in selecting what to recommend to their peers than did teens whose contacts all knew one another independently.

In both humans and monkeys, those who exercise their social brain network more to translate ideas and information between different groups increase the size and connectivity of that neural “muscle,” which further expands their capacity for effective networking. That suggests that providing greater access to broader and more diverse social networks in both educational settings and the workplace could change how people use their brains in day-to-day decision-making.

Since previous research has demonstrated that activity in one person’s social brain network can stimulate similar activity in others during communication, putting both speaker and listener in greater sync and making communication more successful, any effort to widen and diversify social networks could create an ever-expanding ripple effect throughout the community.