Human beings have succeeded as the most dominant species on earth in large part due to our need to connect and cooperate. It was our ability to socialize and connect that catapulted our species to phenomenal heights of innovation, through collaboration and specialization. This drive has fine-tuned our unconscious perception of faces, facial expressions, body language, and touch. Our primitive drive to connect changes how we perceive the world and the people around us. We see, hear, empathize with, and understand others differently depending on whether they are a member of our in-group or not. This unconscious drive to connect can draw us together, but it also emphasizes the differences between groups. And it is getting worse, as overcrowding, technology, and the media often focus us on our differences. We become more and more divided into groups as a result.
Here, Mark Williams shows us how to recapture the drive for connection in a way that will help us look past our differences and reconnect, even with those whom we perceive to be outside our groups. He starts by discussing the human brain’s specialization for connection and how it evolved, and the fascinating way we automatically process the thoughts and feelings of others. He focuses on how connection works in practice and why it is important for learning, innovating, health and wellbeing. He then explores the negative consequences of our drive for connection and explains how it contributes to racism, sexism, nationalism, and many other social issues of our day, as well as its impact on our individual health and wellbeing. He ends with a positive perspective by examining how we can use our drive for connection to expand our in-group and extend multicultural societies for the good of our planet.
Mark A. Williams, PhD, is a professor of cognitive neuroscience with over 25 years’ experience conducting behavioral and brain imaging research. Williams has published more than 70 scientific articles and received numerous high-profile fellowships and grants. He has made many TV and radio appearances to discuss topics including emotions, technology, education, racism, and even why we can’t tickle ourselves. His research has been featured in outlets globally including The New York Times, The Economist, The Guardian, and New Scientist. He lives in Australia.
In his eye-opening debut, cognitive neuroscientist Williams argues that humans’ “primitive drive to connect” has shaped “our behavior over millions of years” and that better understanding this impulse can make for a “less divided” future. The brain has evolved to optimize human connection by centering “face recognition [and] facial expression perception,” which can reinforce prejudice, Williams explains. He points to implicit biases and the cross-race effect, which reveals that “people have a harder time recognizing faces from races other than their own.” Even mirror neurons, which cause humans to “mimic... what we see others doing,” can prove detrimental in negative group environments—for example, a protest in which part of a crowd grows violent—as “a little like a puppet on a string, we are controlled by the mood of the people around us.” Williams’s suggested solutions include “meeting people from... different cultures,” “expanding the circle of the in-group to encompass members of the out-group” (for example, Williams writes that though he grew up in a Catholic family, he might tell non- Catholics that he grew up in a “spiritual family”), and fighting implicit bias in the media. Williams’s personal anecdotes, lucid explanations of his research studies, and chapter summaries make for an argument that’s accessible but not dumbed down, and readers will appreciate his optimistic tone. Pop psychology fans should take note.
This slim book reads like a thought-provoking psychology/sociology course from one's favorite college professor. Written in a chatty style by Williams, a cognitive neuroscientist who specializes in research on faces and facial expressions, the volume takes readers on a journey to discover “how the evolution of the human brain can save the world.” … Each chapter delightfully ends with a bulleted summation of key points and a "Tip of the Chapter" to help readers internalize the take-home message, that the “next time you encounter someone you don’t like, stop and consider why you don’t like them," because "reflecting on our automatic responses is an important step forward.” Extensive notes supplement the text. Highly recommended. General readers through faculty; professionals.
The Connected Species is gripping and humorous, provocative, moving at times, and brimming with personal reflections. Above all, it is an insightful look at the science of being a human among humans on this tiny ball hurtling through the cosmos.
In The Connected Species, Dr. Mark Williams interweaves history, psychology, and human health to tell the fascinating story of humankind. With warmth and humor, Williams explains how our species is shaped by a powerful drive to connect and affiliate—a drive that can both foster our greatest accomplishments and feed our worst inclinations.
I couldn't put this book down at my first read and will be re-reading it many times. I highly recommend it as a compelling and riveting read, as well as wise and reassuring guidance for anyone who cares about the future of our species.
In The Connected Species, Mark Williams explores the evolution of our brain in an accessible and very entertaining way, enabling the reader a thorough and comprehensive understanding of who we are today and what we might be tomorrow.
This book is a must-read for those who wish for a happier and healthier world for our children and grandchildren. Professor Mark Williams provides a clear and understandable picture of how our brain has evolved, and what that means for us, and our descendants. He writes with clarity and good humor, referring to evidence-based research. The Connected Species is an excellent companion to Yuval Noah Harari’s Sapiens and 21 Lessons for the 21st Century.
Having just read A Bloody Good rant by Thomas Kennealy, Dr Mark Williams' book The Connected Species resonates emotionally with me in the same vein. It, too, is a bloody good rant, a must-read for anyone seeking to deepen their understanding of the power of human connection and how it shapes our lives. However, it is more than just a rant. It explores the impact of meaningful relationships on our happiness, health, and overall well-being and provides insightful and practical strategies for strengthening our connections with others. So don't miss out on the chance to enrich your life through the power of The Connected Species, and grab a copy today!
Mark breaks down the complexity of human behaviour, especially the everyday behaviours we take for granted. The impact of this knowledge and insight gives meaning to the term "think before you act" and goes a long way to teaching understanding, empathy and connection for ourselves and everyone around us.
I am always suspicious if a book offers a simple recipe to heal the world, but I truly enjoyed reading Mark Williams' thoughts. They sum up 25 years of research experience as a neuroscientist and widen convincingly the perspective from the individual to society.
Neuroscience research tells us that stereotyping and group identification are the backbone of the success of the human species. These processes need now a deliberate steering, if we want to succeed in the 21st century. Williams calls us the “connected species” and he argues that we now need to make the right connections and enable our kids to reconnect.
Williams has presented an exceptional and comprehensive case outlining the necessity and limitations for learning in social settings. It's what makes us human; the capacity to do things for and with others. A powerful take away - communities need to be small enough for members to form positive relationships. Powerful message - well worth the read!
7/4/23, Chris Voss Show: Mark A. Williams is interviewed about the book.
Link: https://thechrisvossshow.com/the-chris-voss-show-podcast-the-connected-species-how-the-evolution-of-the-human-brain-can-save-the-world-by-mark-a-williams/YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KBnUY93PKT0
6/23/23, Office ADHD Podcast: Author Mark A. Williams is interviewed about the book.
8/14/23, World at One / BBC Radio 4: Sarah Montague interviews Mark Williams on the effects of screen time.
8/16/23, Joey Pinz Discipline Conversations podcast: Mark Williams is interviewed about the book and staying more connected with others.
8/1/23, Judging Meghan podcast: Mark Williams joined Meghan Judge to discuss the concerning effects of technology on mental health, well-being, and relationships.
8/13/23, Witness the World podcast: Mark Williams discusses the human brain and how we can improve our brain health.
8/17/23, The School of Reinvention podcast: Roger Osorio talks to Mark Williams about habit hacking, the dangers of distraction, and how to maximize productivity.
8/13/23, The Paul Taylor podcast: Mark Williams discusses the book in this two-part episode, which the host describes as “one of those podcast interviews that I did not want to end,” so it was split into 2 episodes.
Link Part 1: https://podcasts.apple.com/au/podcast/a-fascinating-tour-of-our-amazing-brains/id1534267189?i=1000624160800
Link Part 2: https://podcasts.apple.com/au/podcast/part-2-a-fascinating-tour-of-our-amazing/id1534267189?i=1000624890370Instagram link: https://www.instagram.com/reel/Cv0d2gEBpjY/?utm_source=ig_web_copy_link&igshid=MzRlODBiNWFlZA==
8/18/23, SHAIR.care podcast: Damian Andrews interviews Mark Williams about the book.
9/13/23, How to Live a Fantastic Life: Dr. Allen Lycka interviews Dr. Mark Williams about the book on this syndicated radio show.
10/24/23, 60 Mindful Minutes: Kristin Manieri features Mark Williams on episode 268 about the book.
12/30/23, The Relatable Voice podcast: Mark Williams is interviewed about the book. There’s also a feature running in the January issue of The Relatable Voice magazine.
Magazine Link: https://heyzine.com/flip-book/4d0e6c1295.html#page/18