Our brains have distinct mechanisms for talking about thoughts, about memories, about feelings and about the future. In Praise of Talking will be about the neuroscience of how we talk about ourselves, how we disclose information, and how that activity is central to the bonds we make with each other. It draws on a wealth of the latest neurological research, some of which the author has conducted himself, on talking about ourselves to other people – how we do it and why we do it, and what our brains are up to while we do it.
We talk about ourselves so consistently and pervasively we are unaware how much talking about ourselves to others supports our intense social lives. It is the currency underlying social transactions and social life, allowing us to build trust and rapport with others. In turn, building trust and rapport with others is at the core of our mental and social well-being. Conversation depends critically on having a richly-stocked autobiographical memory that we use not just in the service of remembering, but also in negotiating our position and status with others. We talk about ourselves to change what other people think of us, feel about us, will do for us.
This novel way of thinking about talking turns our view of identity inside-out because our sense of identity arises out of what we think others think about us. We tell our stories to others, drawing on our fragile and fallible autobiographical memories, which are in turn shaped by the questions we are asked and the stories we want to tell about ourselves, and by what others tell us. And we do so to affect what others think about us – not simply to disclose ourselves to others. And this is all in the service of social belonging: to the family, to tribes, to institutions, to cultures and subcultures, to nations, to those who profess the same ideals and stories that we do.
In Praise of Talking blends expertise and a scientific journey of discovery, leavened by Shane O’Mara’s warm tone and evangelical gift for transmitting the wonder of the brain to a wide readership.