A brief history of human society: The origin and role of emotion in social life

Douglas S. Massey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

248 Scopus citations


Human society emerged over 6 million years of hominid evolution. During this time group size steadily increased, and to maintain group cohesion human beings gradually evolved a well-developed social intelligence based on the differentiation and refinement of emotions. The neurological structures for emotional expression are part of the primitive brain and developed long before the cognitive equipment for rational intelligence evolved. Indeed, full rationality came rather late in human evolution, and it has only been within the last 100 years that the social conditions emerged for a mass culture based on rationality. A review of the evolution of human society and human cognition illustrates the creation and workings of the human emotional brain and show how it operates independently of and strongly influences the rational brain. If sociology is to advance, research and theory must grapple with both rational and emotional intelligence and focus particularly on the interplay between them.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-29
Number of pages29
JournalAmerican Sociological Review
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2002
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science


Dive into the research topics of 'A brief history of human society: The origin and role of emotion in social life'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this