It’s All in Your Head (Earth Current)

A close view of the surface of a brain coral.

If someone asked you, “How big is your social network?” how would you answer? Maybe you would look at the size of your address book, the number of groups you belong to, or, perhaps, you’d count up your Facebook friends.


Researchers led by Northeastern University psychology professor Lisa Feldman Barrett have a different idea: look at the size of your amygdala. The amygdala is a small structure in the temporal lobe of the brain. “We know that primates who live in larger social groups have a larger amygdala,” said Barrett. Would the same hold true for humans? The researchers asked 58 participants to complete questionnaires on the size and intricacies of their social networks. They measured the number of regular contacts each participant maintained, as well the number of social groups to which these contacts belonged. Then, tests were performed to measure the volume of the amygdala. Individuals with larger amygdalae reported larger and more complex social networks.

So, in a sense, your social network is all in your head.

For all the latest science news, check out our twice-weekly news rundown, Earth Current.

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