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The secret to managing complex relationships

delhi Updated: Dec 26, 2010 23:14 IST
Charu Sudan Kasturi
Charu Sudan Kasturi
Hindustan Times
Highlight Story

A person’s ability to manage complex relationships and large social networks is linked to the physical volume of the part of the human brain that helps determining friend from foe, scientists have found, offering a possible explanation for why some people manage social relationships better than others.

People with a larger amygdala — which plays a key role in memory formation — on an average have larger and complex social networks, American scientists have found, opening up prospects of deeper understanding of both social networks and brain ailments.

The research provides the first evidence of a direct correlation within a species between the size of the amygdala and the the individual’s social network. “The research clearly shows that a larger amygdala is linked to having a larger and more complex social network, and it raises a series of questions to be answered,” Dr. Lisa Barrett, one of the authors of the paper, told HT in an email interview.

The key question the research throws up involves whether a large amygdala actually enables people to enjoy a larger and more complex social network, or could the size of the amygdala evolve according to a person’s needs.

The scientists have argued that there is evidence to suggest that people endowed with larger amygdalae may have more raw materials necessary for a rich and varied life.

They cite observations on primates that show that the more social primates have larger amygdalae. A larger amygdala may provide a person greater social capital to bank on during times of illness or old age, the scientists suggest. But it is also possible that engaging in multiple social interactions changes the volume of the amgydala, Barrett, a psychologist at Northeastern University added. “It could be that the rich get richer, so to speak,” she said.