A Mind for Sociability
Michael Balter writes in Science:
Humans are highly social, but we don’t get pally with just anybody. Before forming relationships with other people, we normally size them up to see how trustworthy they are. A new study suggests that this behavior stems from an evolutionary reorganization in a part of the brain responsible for detecting other people’s emotions.
The amygdala, a small, almond-shaped area deep within our brains, appears to be essential in helping us read the emotions of others. Research shows that the structure is crucial for detecting fear, but scientists have also found evidence that it can help spot a wide variety of mental states. Last year, for example, scientists noted that the amygdalas of patients with autism, which is characterized by decreased social interaction and an inability to understanding the feelings of others, have fewer nerve cells, especially in a subdivision called the lateral nucleus.