The Social Nature of Humans and Making the Most of It

From philosophy to neurology, from psychology to religion, from anthropology to biology, it has been argued that humans are, in their very nature, social beings.

And who are we to refute than, when our everyday lives are composed of enjoying our friends’ selfies, investing in romantic relationships, looking out for the next generation, and even engaging in social media for good causes?

The social nature of humans is embedded in our personal lives, the institutions and structures that govern them, our cultures, our histories, our belief systems, the way we acquire and share knowledge, and well, basically everything.

Including the very makeup of our brains. This fascinating finding in neuroscience has recently come up: our brains are inherently social.

Neuroscientists investigated the human brain in its non-active state i.e. when the person takes a break and lets his brain rest. When a person has down time, his brain turns on a system called the “default network.”

According to Matthew Lieberman, a famous social psychologist and neuroscientist: “The default network directs us to think about other people’s minds—their thoughts, feelings, and goals.”

Basically, whenever we try to chill out, our brains’ automatic response is to think of other people. This mirrors the history of our evolution as humans, since we all know that species which work well together have definitely shown more chances of survival.

Interestingly enough, tracing the origin of our social nature is simply evolutionary.

But then again, through thousands and thousands of years, this evolutionary fact must have manifested in other things.

For instance, in the way we experience pain. Social loss and social rejection may seem different from, say, bruises or wounds, but our brains seem to process them the same way.

And here’s a good explanation behind that:

A broken leg and a broken heart seem like very different forms of pain. But there are evolutionary reasons why our brains process social pain the way they process physical pain. Pain is a sign that something is wrong. Social pain signals that we are all alone—that we are vulnerable—and need to either form new connections or rekindle old ones to protect ourselves against the many threats that are out there.

No man is an island, indeed. While we definitely have basic needs like water, food, air, and shelter, social connections may as well be in the same category.

That’s what we can say for the way humans scientifically evolved as a species. Unfortunately, the way human society has evolved seems to be counterintuitive.

Over the years, our lifestyles have grown to be more individualistic, partly due to the economy, partly due to technology, though other factors come into play.

The point is this: we steadfastly seem to grow apart from each other, against our evolution and our biology.

These days, we seem to keep defying our social nature as we let our social connections dissolve. We could spend a long amount of time working our bodies off, forgetting whom we work for.

We pursue our ambitions, sometimes putting aside our loved ones, losing our grip on the fact that we won’t have the motivation and inspiration to succeed in the first place without them.

We convince ourselves to be content seeing each other as pixels on computer or phone screens.

BeepBeep Nation has an answer to this dilemma.

It ironically reverses the current trend in technology of creating distance between people, and instead uses the very potential of technology in developing our social nature.

By providing a platform to connect people who need help and people who can offer it, the BeepBeep Nation app seeks to give its users the opportunity to be as social as they want and need to be.

The provision of help through the BeepBeep Nation app requires an actual physical meetup between a requestor and a helper, so in addition to encouraging a culture of kindness, it also intensely promotes face-to-face human interactions.

Since its very mission of making the world a better place functions on the basis of our social nature as humans, BeepBeep Nation urges us to make the most of it in our everyday lives.

I’m sure it will take time to reflect on the social nature of humans, so while doing some philosophical thinking for yourself, be sure to check that out as well.

My final two cents: it might even be better to live out your ideas through BeepBeep Nation. Instead of merely musing about it, let’s participate in a world that is truly more social than ever!

An Attitude Of Gratitude Is Good For You

When I was a kid, my parents instilled an attitude of gratitude in me.

They taught me what they called “magic words.”

This includes saying please, I’m sorry, and most importantly, thank you.

Vague memories of preschool also have a similar lesson; I remember my playmates and I practicing that habit as encouraged by our awesome teacher Mrs. Silverstone.

When Nick lets you borrow his toy truck, say thank you. When Amy shares her fruit bites, say thank you. When Karl and Jessica make you join in their game involving color blocks, say thank you.

I myself don’t have a kid yet, but I’m pretty sure I’ll definitely teach my son or daughter the same thing.

Especially after reading stuff here and there proving that something like it really exists. The science of gratitude.

Attitude of gratitude - be thankful

In a research study involving around 300 adults who sought psychological counselling services at a university, it has been found that an attitude of gratitude do not only help well-adjusted individuals, but also those who had mental health concerns.

The participants — most of whom reported clinically low levels of mental health, and struggled with depression and anxiety — were divided into three groups.

Although all three groups received counselling services, Group 1 was additionally asked to write one letter of gratitude every week.

Group 2 was asked to write about their deepest negative thoughts and feelings.

Group 3 didn’t do any writing.

Create an attitude of gratitude by writing a gratitude journal.

Those who wrote gratitude letters reported significantly better mental health four weeks and 12 weeks after the writing exercise ended.

The researchers then decided to delve into the more physical science of gratitude and found out that their gratitude exercise had actual lasting effects on the brain.

Using an fMRI scanner to analyze how the participants’ brains were processing information, the researchers asked Group 1 (gratitude letter writers) and Group 3 (people who didn’t write) to do “pay-it-forward” tasks.

They were to be given money by a benefactor, and they can decide how much of it they were going to give back to a cause of their choice.

The researchers found out that across participants, the brain activity of people who felt grateful and the brain activity of people who felt mostly guilty and obligated to do the task were very distinct.

When grateful people donated more, their medial prefrontal cortex became more sensitive. This is a part of the brain associated with learning and decision-making.

Interestingly, this higher sensitivity was also more identified in the group who were gratitude letter writers in the previous experiment.

Attitude of gratitude - show your appreciation

Other studies involving the science of gratitude also yielded fascinating results.

It has been linked to better quality of sleep, as well as decreased blood pressure.

And in seeming accordance with the neurological findings of a study, gratitude has been linked to a boost in willpower and impulse control, helping people make better decisions like avoiding overeating, exercising more and attending regular checkups.

Attitude of gratitude - thank somebody for making a difference in your life.

So don’t be afraid to need help. What’s important is to remember to feel grateful and to express it to the people who are there for you.

If you want to read more about the science of gratitude, here’s a link to various research projects.

If you want to participate in a cause that encourages people to get help and feel grateful, check out the BeepBeep Nation App. It provides a platform for people to request for the help they need (called requestors) and for other people to respond (called helpers).

Once the task is done, requestors may give a gratitude tip to their helpers. However, it’s not mandatory, because as we have seen scientifically, gratitude is so much more real if it’s willingly felt and reciprocated.

Of course, requestors themselves may also want to be helpers to somebody else if they want to pay it forward. 

BeepBeep Nation instills an attitude of gratitude in its users, which will definitely make the world a better place.

If you would like to be a BeepBeep Nation supporter, click here now.

Volunteer Benefits – The Science

There are many benefits for volunteers. Here's the science behind compassion.

A volunteer benefits from doing their share in alleviating the suffering of their fellow human beings.

We frequently showcase this kind of stories — of people with exemplary acts of devotion and compassion or even people who do random little acts of kindness in their everyday lives.

Some people who enjoy helping out tend to do so for religious or spiritual reasons.

And whether it’s Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, or others, the religions of the world do have discourses of compassion.

Though I myself have always been curious about a different but equally important aspect of this human tendency: is there a science behind this?

volunteer benefits from psychologically and physiologically when doing good deeds.

I’m glad to report: yep, there is.

A study done by experimental social psychologists tested how the experience of compassion affected people’s behavior.

First, participants were told that they were supposedly part of an experiment about mathematical ability and taste perception.

Ostensibly, these were the instructions: participants were supposed to solve as much as they can of 20 math problems, in which they would receive 50 cents for each problem they solved correctly.

After being checked and getting paid, they would proceed to the taste perception phase. Here, participants were asked to prepare taste samples for each other by pouring extra-hot hot sauce.

It seems absurd, but here’s the catch.

The experimenters hired confederates to pretend to be fake participants.

Let’s call the first one Dan and the second Hannah. In one version of the experiment, Dan was asked to cheat badly and very obviously on the math problems, so that the real participants would see.

Afterwards, in the taste perception phase, the experimenters noticed that the real participants poured bigger servings of hot sauce to Dan the Cheater.

But doesn’t this show revenge instead of compassion?

experiment to see the effects of compassion on volunteers.

Well, in another version, Dan the Cheater was asked to do the same thing but now Hannah was gonna play a role.

Before the taste perception phase, Hannah would cry and the experimenters would ask why.

She’d say she recently found out about her brother’s terminal illness. Increasingly emotional, Hannah asked to be excused from the experiment.

In this version, even though the participants still witnessed Dan cheating, they did not pour bigger amounts of hot sauce in the taste perception phase.

What does this show?

First, the compassion that the participants felt predicted how much hot sauce they were going to give to another person.

And second, more importantly, the compassion that people feel towards one person can predict how they will act towards others.

This experiment is only one of many studies that are now delving into the idea and reality of compassion.

Recently, a conference has even been held to discuss it, joined by representatives from different fields such as evolutionary psychologists, clinical psychologists who deal with children suffering from trauma, charity owners who conduct social and emotional skills workshops for the youth, and others.

brain scans to determine the different states in the brain that correspond to compassion.

Using brain scans, one doctor even explained how different parts of the brain are activated when people are in a “compassionate state” or “non-compassionate state.”

So interestingly enough, compassion actually seems to have physiological, neurological effects.

A volunteer benefits both his body and mind.

But now here’s the thing. My personal epiphany, if you will.

We can participate in all these discussions, conduct our own experiments if we’re in the field, compile all these data, but maybe it’ll be a bit more exciting to see for ourselves.

There’s all this science about compassion, we know that. But somehow I think the reality of compassion can’t be proven by numbers.

Tall order but maybe here’s what we can do: go out there, help people out, and prove it for ourselves.

Help people out and reap the benefits as a volunteer.

If you are interested in reading more scientific information about kindness or compassion, here’s a list of various quantitative and qualitative studies about the topic.

Then again, if you are more keen to join the action, check out the upcoming BeepBeep Nation app. You might be surprised at the many ways you’ll see how compassion exists.