Evolution Favors the Social

It’s a known fact that humans like to be social – we’re social beings. We enjoy the company of friends, and many times cannot stop telling them tidbits about our life experiences and things that have happened to us recently. One of the most used websites on the internet, Facebook, is a “social network” that was designed to keep us in touch with our friends, even without being physically present. Social networking is even present in less evident online trends, like Instagram and Vine, for example. Smartphones were designed for you to be able to keep in touch with your friends, on-the-go. Just plain observance of yourself and the people around you can show you the strong fundamental human desire for social belonging.

There have been recent discoveries in the field of neuroscience that prove evidence that evolution has favored the development of areas in the brain that relate to social behaviors. The human brain has evolved in ways that the neocortex – which involve higher social cognition such as conscious thought, empathy, and language – is much larger than it was before. In fact, it is even larger when compared to those in mammals of similar size.

The reasons for the evolution of the brain towards more social behavior are not yet understood. There have been many theories, but they all agree that they were for 1) monogamous pair bonds, and 2) paternal care. In an evolutionary sense, the offspring would have a higher chance of survival against predators if the father stayed long enough. And in an evolutionary sense this is true, since evolution simply is: the survival of the fittest.

There are other benefits, of course, due to this type of evolution of the brain. We now posses a very complex social processor that allows us to engage in sophisticated social interactions, maintain relationships with a large number of different people, as well as experience reward through social interactions.

However, with benefits, also come the costs: due to the largeness and sophistication the brain has achieved, it takes longer to completely develop. In comparison to other mammals, human children take a very long time to develop and are extremely dependent on parental care. Not only are parents required to take care of their children until the brain fully develops, but also provide the right environment for their social skills to follow. To put this into perspective, some social skills are learned way into adolescence, and maybe even after. Through all of this, parents must provide.

Evolution has brought us to where we are today, and we are social beings. Throughout this, the brain has evolved in the best ways possible to advance us, and put us a step above every single creature on this planet. If the cost to this genetic superiority is extended parenthood, so be it. However, let us not forget that this nurturing parenthood is directly related to the superior benefits one receives. We should bless our children with the same sheltered and brain-stimulating environment that we have had to give them the best present they could ever receive: a high evolutionary factor.

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