Thursday, May 18, 2017

Maximus Thaler — Holding Hands is More Important Than You Think

Humans are social animals.
Dr. Coan is a neuroscientist who specializes in measuring social cognition. His work falls under the heading of Social Baseline Theory. The critical claim of social baseline theory is that humans are inherently social creatures. Just as fish gills indicate that fish are aquatic creatures, the human mind has a suite of adaptations which indicate that we are social creatures.
For the entirety of human evolution (some 6 million years) people have always relied on other people. Social aid has been a fixture in humanity’s evolutionary environment, and our brains should reflect this....
Evolution Institute
Holding Hands is More Important Than You Think
Maximus Thaler | PhD candidate at Binghamton University studying cultural evolution.


Unknown said...

While I appreciate the sentiments of this researcher, his experiment on hand holding was flawed at least as portrayed in your linked article, From your linked article -

Dr. Coan’s actual experiments are gruesomely simple. He puts people in an fMRI machine, shocks them, and watches what happens to their brain. And the variable that he manipulates is simple handholding.

This is a simple electric shock - see Lending a hand: social regulation of the neural response to threat.

were subjected to the threat of electric shock

It is a characteristic of electric currents that they pass through the human body, and will also shock anyone else that touches them. He could have used another way of injuring them, but would likely have faced far greater objections from IRB's (Institutional Review Boards)

This is not to say that human empathy is not important, and is not more intense with loved ones. The fact that the electric shock was less intense when felt by a stranger is also explained by simple electrical changes in the body that are brought about in emotional states (and this fact is exploited in Reiki, and also in lie detectors)

IMO, it is the emotional state and empathy that are the driving factors and not the hand holding as such. That said, it is well known that physical contact helps in the formation of emotional bonds.

Tom Hickey said...

There is a link to the research in the article, but I have not read it.

One research paper would not establish this anyway. Fortunately, there is a lot of other research on empathy. Some of the most interesting, I think, is on mirror neurons.