High-quality social relationships help us live longer, happier, and healthier lives—facts that hold true, as far as anyone knows, regardless of geography or culture. Although links between relationships and health have been observed for decades (if not millennia), the mechanisms responsible for them remain speculative. For this talk, I’ll first describe our work on one of these potential mechanisms: social regulation of the brain’s response to perceived threat. Next, I’ll offer a perspective, derived initially from our social regulation results, that integrates the study of social relationships with principles of behavioral ecology and cognitive psychology to propose that social relationships are construed by the brain as bioenergetic resources available to the self. Because of this, proximity to social resources economizes both current and predicted cognitive and bodily effort, a process that can diminish subjective stress, improve health, and prolong life.

Jim Coan, PhD

University of Virginia

James Coan, PhD (CoInvestigator) is a Professor of Psychology at the University of Virginia. His work seeks to uncover the neural mechanisms of emotion and social behavior, with an emphasis … MORE

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