Creating a shared social world: Linking shared understanding and social connection in real-world social networks
University of California, Los Angeles, USA
In this talk, I will present a variety of collaborative work that integrates theory and methods from experimental psychology, cognitive neuroscience, and social network analysis to examine links between shared understanding and social connection in real-world social networks. One set of studies tests if human social networks exhibit assortativity in how their members perceive, interpret, and respond to the world around them. Consistent with this possibility, we find that proximity between people in their shared real-world social networks is predicted by the similarity of their neural responses to naturalistic stimuli, by their subjective construals of ambiguous stimuli, and by the relative similarity of their functional connectomes. A second set of findings illustrates that people who process the world around them in a manner that is more reflective of community norms have greater levels of subjective and objective social connection in their community, above and beyond the effects of social distance. In a third set of studies, we examine how convergent processing of content (e.g., video clips) is related to the desire to share that content with others. We find that people are more inclined to share content that evokes convergent neural processing across members of their community, and that perceptions of community convergence play a causal role in promoting content sharing. Taken together, these findings highlight the link between social connection and shared understanding, and demonstrate the value of combining diverse levels of analysis to gain insight into how individuals perceive, shape, and are shaped by the world around them.