Across cultures and language divides, people talk about the sting of social rejection as if it were a physical pain. We feel “burned” by a partner’s infidelity, “wounded” by a friend’s harsh words, “crushed” when a loved one fails us, “heartache” when spurned by a lover.
There’s a reason for that linguistic conflation, says a growing community of pain researchers: In our brains too, physical and social pain share much the same neural circuitry. In many ways, in fact, your brain may scarcely make a distinction between a verbal and physical insult.
So the well-worn parental reassurance that “sticks and stones will break your bones, but names will never hurt you” is false, these scientists say. And they have the pictures to prove it.