The Echoes of the Mind – Sociality


“The imaginations which people have of one another are the solid facts of society.” ~ Charles Cooley

As a gregarious, altricial species, human well-being is profoundly affected by relationships throughout life. Over half of our waking hours, and a great deal of mental resources, are spent in social interaction.

“Social interaction is really an interaction of minds, of mental states, but we have to communicate those states to others.” ~ Janet Wilde Astington

Twins begin interacting in the womb: reaching for each other as early as the 14th week of gestation. By their 18th week, they spend more time contacting each other than themselves. 30% of their movements are directed toward their prenatal companion, including stroking the head or back. These behaviors last longer and are more accurate than self-directed actions, such as touching their own eyes or mouth.

“The womb is a starting point to develop a sense of self and a sense of others.” ~ Italian cognitive scientist Vittorio Gallese

By 6 months, infants are already making judgments about the social behaviors they observe. Babies prefer people who help one another and are averse to those that hinder others. This is innate morality at work.

“All social animals benefit from the capacity to identify individual conspecifics that may help them, and to distinguish these individuals from others that may harm them.” ~ American psychologist Kiley Hamlin et al

By 21 months, infants can tell the difference between a leader and a bully. They perceive the distinct forms of social power.

“Infants understand that you have to obey leaders even when they are not around; with bullies, though, you have to obey them only when they are around. Infants can distinguish between respect-based and fear-based power relations.” ~ French Canadian psychologist Renée Baillargeon

Generally, girls and women are more affiliative than boys and men. This accords with most other animals.

Isolation is mentally damaging to adults. For youngsters, it is devastating.

“Social integration and support can have profound effects on human survival.” ~ American ethologist Elizabeth Archie