We are born helpless. As soon as we are fully conscious we discover loneliness. We need others physically, emotionally, intellectually; we need them if we are to know anything, even ourselves.
—C. S. Lewis
As social beings, we have an evolutionary need to communicate and connect with other people. Each of us strives to belong to a group and bond with people, the same way we have a basic need for food and shelter.
Matthew D. Lieberman, a neuroscientist and educator who leads the Social Cognitive Neuroscience Lab at UCLA Department of Psychology, sees the brain as the center of our social selves. In his book Social: Why Our Brains Are Wired to Connect, he hypothesizes that our brains evolved to experience threats to our social connections in the same way they evolved to experience physical pain. Emotional pain and physical pain are inextricably linked, which explains why parents have a need to keep their kids close, and why we hold on to our intimate relationships over time. When something goes wrong with a loved one, it activates neural circuitry that can cause us to feel physical pain in the chest—heartbreak. This reaction was born out of an evolutionary need to stay socially connected over the course of our lives, Lieberman contends.
Other research emphasizes the health benefits of being connected; one study1 showed that a lack of social connection ...