The secret to friendship is mind reading

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  • Researchers claim the secret to popularity is being able to second-guess what people are thinking

    The area of the brain used to imagine what’s going on inside someone else’s head is far larger in people with lots of friends, say researchers from Oxford University.

    The forebrain is one of the most highly evolved regions of the human brain and is crucial to social skills and the ability tomentalisewhat others are thinking.

    ‘We found that individuals who had more friends did better on mentalising tasks and had more neural volume in the orbital frontal cortex, the part of theforebrain immediately above the eyes,’ says lead researcher Professor Robin Dunbar.

    ‘Understanding the link between an individual’s brain size and the number of friends they have helps us understand the mechanisms that have led to humans developing bigger brains than other primate species.’

    The research, published today in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, involved 40 volunteers listing everyone they had socially engaged with over the previous seven days before undergoing MRI scans.

    Psychologist and co-author Dr Joanne Powell, from the University of Liverpool, says: ‘Perhaps the most important finding is that therelationship between brain size and social network size is mediated by mentalising skills.’


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