Segments in this Video

Social Creatures (01:59)


In addition to nutrients, water, and oxygen, the human brain requires interaction with other people for optimum health. As social creatures, human beings are born into social networks and spend their lives in them.

Why Do I Need You? (02:08)

People interact with many others throughout each day, forming complex social webs. Social interactions that may seem basic are carefully constructed. Social drives are rooted in neural circuitry.

Social Narratives (02:06)

Dr. Eagleman shows a film created by psychologists in the 1940s that features shapes moving around. Watchers create stories depicting relationships between the moving shapes. People naturally create social narratives because brains are hardwired to understand things in terms of relationships.

Trustworthy Tools (02:03)

In an experiment at Yale University, babies watch a puppet show featuring two bears and a duck. One bear is helpful; the other is mean to the duck. Following the study, almost all babies chose to play with then nicer bear, suggesting that people are armed with tools to decipher trustworthiness early on.

Social Cues (03:57)

As people age, social environments become more complex, and they begin to requiring more interpretation of both blatant and subtle cues. Asperger's is a form of Autism, which is a condition with lessened brain activity during social interactions, resulting in diminished social skills.

Unlocking Changes (03:56)

John Robison, a man with Asperger's, participated in a study at Harvard Medical School on the Autistic brain. He received transcranial magnetic stimulation which triggered a change in his brain that allowed him to understand people's facial expressions.

Mirroring (04:00)

Dr. Eagleman replicates a study from Duke University where facial muscles are measured as people view photographs of others with various emotions on their faces. A side effect of Botox injections is a lessened ability to interpret other people's emotions, as the study indicates.

Pain Matrix (02:27)

One way that the brain works to understand other people's emotions is through mirroring facial expressions. Another way is by activation of regions of the brain associated with pain. This is responsible for empathy.

Stories and Realities (03:59)

Though movie-goers know that the scenes they watch are fictional, neurons deep inside the brain cannot tell the difference, so the reaction is as if the scene was happening to the viewer. Novels produce a similar effect. A peace activist who was placed in solitary confinement in an Iraqi jail describes the torturous experience.

Stream of Life (03:58)

Once the peace activist was released, she experienced intense post-traumatic stress. It is difficult to study those in solitary confinement and therefore to understand what the brain does, but a study shows that being left out of a game of catch activates the pain matrix.

Power of Groups (03:28)

Being left out spurs painful feelings, but those painful feelings drive people to bond with one another and form groups. The issue with this is once a group is formed, people consider those outside the group to be less important. This begins to explain genocide.

Genocide (03:41)

A survivor of the Bosnian War describes how his neighbors turned on his family and murdered them. He says it was as if the universal value "don't kill" was removed.

Teams (03:15)

Dr. Eagleman conducts a study where 130 participants view images in a scanner of people's hands being stabbed by a syringe. One word group associations are enough to alter a basic response in the brain about how much the participant cares about the person being stabbed. The findings suggest that it is not just a response of religious affiliation, but about which team each person is on.

Objectification (03:49)

A person affected with psychopathy does not feel empathy for other people, viewing people as objects to be manipulated rather than people with feelings. Genocide is not driven by armies of psychopaths because regular citizens participate. A study suggests that people are able to classify certain groups as objects and to care less about them, like in the case of homeless people.

Propaganda (03:24)

For genocide to occur on a mass scale, large groups have to be dehumanized. This is accomplished through media and targets individuals most likely to act violently— young men.

Eye Color Experiment (03:46)

The day after Martin Luther King was assassinated in 1966, a teacher in an Iowa town performed an experiment with her young students. She classified them as blue eyed and brown eyed, then told them that one group was better than the other. A man who had been in the class reports his experience behaving in the group that was supposedly better.

Eye Color Experiment Outcome (02:41)

When the Iowa teacher reversed the experiment, indicating to the children that neither group was actually better, the children were forced into understanding a certain perspective.

Importance of Human Links (02:00)

Propaganda is less powerful as a tool to control the masses when people understand how it works. Reducing dehumanization and fulfilling human potential are possibilities.

Credits: Why Do I Need You? Part 5: The Brain with David Eagleman (01:46)

Credits: Why Do I Need You? Part 5: The Brain with David Eagleman

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In "Do I Need You?" Dr. David Eagleman explores how the human brain relies on other brains to thrive and survive. This neural interdependence begins at birth. Dr. Eagleman invites a group of babies to a puppet show to showcase their ability to discern who is trustworthy, and who isn’t. Brain scans reveal that when we see someone in pain, we feel it too. Circuits within the brain’s pain matrix light up in both cases. And this is the basis of empathy. Our social brain draws us together into groups. In groups humans have accomplished great things – from football games to music festivals, from peopling the world to building great civilizations. But there’s a darker side. For every “in group” there is always an “out group.” Dr. Eagleman’s lab has shown that belonging to an “in group” means that at an unconscious level our brains care less about members of the “out group.” He journeys to modern day Bosnia to hear from an eyewitness about what happened in 1995 when genocide returned to Europe. What could have allowed for such horrific group on group violence? Dr. Eagleman believes that neuroscience offers important answers. Dr. Lasana Harris at Leiden University has discovered that there are certain circumstances under which the human brain stops perceiving others as human, and when we perceive others as less than human it’s easier to ignore them, and it’s easier to suspend the moral and social rules we normally live by. Distributed by PBS Distribution.

Length: 60 minutes

Item#: BVL114672

Copyright date: ©2015

Closed Captioned

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