Volume 1 Issue 5 May 2017

Volume 1 Issue 5

Humans form complex social networks that include numerous bonds with non-kin. Parkinson et al. combine social network analysis and multi-voxel pattern analysis of functional MRI data to show that social network information is accurately represented and automatically activated in the brain when we see a familiar other. 

See Parkinson et al. 10072 (2017).

See also Curley & Ochsner 10104 (2017). 

Image: everything possible / Alamy Stock Photo. Cover design: Samantha Whitham.


  • Editorial |

    Science must remain non-partisan, but it cannot — and should not — be disengaged from the society it serves.

Comment and Opinion

  • World View |

    Challenging Heights — an organization that rescues and reintegrates child slaves in Ghana — aims to end child trafficking in the country by 2022, says James Kofi Annan

    • James Kofi Annan
  • Comment |

    Slavery is not a thing of the past but has simply morphed from chattel slavery into forced labour and debt bondage. While consumers are preoccupied with cheap labour and goods, and businesses aren't held accountable for their supply chains, we continue to fuel this US$150 billion profit-making industry.

    • Andrew Wallis
  • Comment |

    Language is a common underlying cause of conflict in multi-ethnic societies. Facilitated dialogue — a method of conflict mediation — is being used in countries such as Myanmar to mitigate language-based conflict, acknowledge language rights, and encourage societies to adopt a culture of dialogue.

    • Joseph Lo Bianco

Research Highlights

News & Views

  • News and Views |

    Research now shows that human social networks surrounding a person who unexpectedly dies recover from the loss through strengthening of the relationships between friends and acquaintances of the deceased individual. The study demonstrates how individuals change their interaction patterns to support one another during a time of grief.

    • Robert Bond
  • News and Views |

    Social learning is a crucial building block of human culture, but how and why do people vary in their propensity to learn from others? Experiments in Ethiopia suggest that pastoralists rely more on others' knowledge than do horticulturalists.

    • Alex Mesoudi
  • News and Views |

    Extraordinary altruists risk their own health and life to help anonymous strangers. A study now shows that extraordinary altruists are motivated to do good to distant others not because they feel socially closer to them, but because they genuinely care more for the welfare of strangers.

    • Tobias Kalenscher
  • News and Views |

    Functional magnetic resonance imaging and social network analysis show that on viewing familiar individuals in a small social network, the brain activates regions critical for inferring mental states and intentions, as well as regions associated with spatial navigation and psychological distance.

    • James P. Curley
    •  & Kevin N. Ochsner


  • Perspective |

    Lack of diversity in study populations, research methodologies and the researchers themselves undermines the goal of identifying and understanding the full range of human behaviour. Medin et al. argue that this system of non-diversity represents a crisis for the science of human behaviour.

    • Douglas Medin
    • , Bethany Ojalehto
    • , Ananda Marin
    •  & Megan Bang


  • Letter |

    Obradovich and Fowler use data on participation in physical activity from 1.9 million US residents from 2002–2012, coupled with daily temperature data, to show that unmitigated climate change is likely to alter future patterns of physical activity.

    • Nick Obradovich
    •  & James H. Fowler
  • Letter |

    In an analysis of 15,000 Facebook networks, Hobbs and Burke find that online social networks are resilient to the death of an individual, showing an increase in interactions between friends following a loss, which remains stable for years after.

    • William R. Hobbs
    •  & Moira K. Burke
  • Letter |

    A series of decision-making experiments with three recently diverged populations from the same ethnic group in Ethiopia demonstrates that dependence on social learning differs between interdependent pastoralists and independent horticulturalists.

    • Luke Glowacki
    •  & Lucas Molleman
  • Letter |

    People willing to incur significant costs to help strangers, ‘extraordinary altruists’, are shown to have an increased subjective valuation of the welfare of distant others, rather than a misconception of the social distance of strangers.

    • Kruti M. Vekaria
    • , Kristin M. Brethel-Haurwitz
    • , Elise M. Cardinale
    • , Sarah A. Stoycos
    •  & Abigail A. Marsh
  • Letter |

    Parkinson et al. combine social network analysis and multi-voxel pattern analysis of functional magnetic resonance imaging data to show that the brain spontaneously encodes social distance, the centrality of the individuals encountered, and the extent to which they serve to broker connections between members.

    • Carolyn Parkinson
    • , Adam M. Kleinbaum
    •  & Thalia Wheatley
  • Article |

    Speer and Delgado demonstrate that recalling positive memories dampens stress responses and correlates with activation of reward-processing corticostriatal circuits. Positive reminiscence may promote resilience to stress.

    • Megan E. Speer
    •  & Mauricio R. Delgado
  • Article |

    Kleckner et al. use monkey and human data to identify an intrinsic brain system that supports interoception (that is, sensations from within the body) and allostasis (that is, the process by which the brain maintains energy regulation in the body).

    • Ian R. Kleckner
    • , Jiahe Zhang
    • , Alexandra Touroutoglou
    • , Lorena Chanes
    • , Chenjie Xia
    • , W. Kyle Simmons
    • , Karen S. Quigley
    • , Bradford C. Dickerson
    •  & Lisa Feldman Barrett