Can reading fiction affect social interaction?

An article in the Globe and Mail cited a study suggesting that fiction can cure social ailments.

Readers of fiction, specifically narrative fiction, tend to be more empathetic, and tend to have higher “social acumen” than those readers of non-fiction.  Readers of short stories tended to do better on social reasoning tests than readers of essays or articles.

To quote the article:

“Those benefits, researchers say, may be because fiction acts as a type of simulator   Reading about make-believe people having make-believe adventures or whirlwind romances may actually help people navigate those trials in real life.”

I suppose this makes sense.  After all, when we read fiction, we place ourselves into the lives of the characters and their plights.  We follow the story as if we were in it, as if we were the ones making the decisions and seeing them through.  Because of this, we gain a sort of experience similar to the experiences of our real lives.

Fiction allows us to practice for real life.  For that reason, reading fiction allows us to benefit socially, while also enjoying a pretty fantastic tale.

Here’s a link to the article information.


Are we attracted to awkward people?


Every once in a while, we end up in an awkward situation, and we have to choose between moving on with our lives and commenting on it.  These moments are sporadic and spontaneous, and almost entirely outside of our control.

However, this idea of “awkwardness” might not be a bad thing.  In fact, writer Jen Kim believes that society has become attracted to awkwardness.

Just think about it.  Shows such as Arrested Development and Big Bang Theory rake in TV viewership, while actors such as Michael Cera (Superbad) and Jonah Hill (21 Jump Street) bring crowds to the theaters with every new release.  Americans seem to have an addiction to awkward young boys with a sense of humor.

But why might this be?  Why are we so attracted to socially awkward people?

Kim suggests that awkwardness is “non-threatening and entertaining.  The awkward guy will never hurt or try to cheat you.  He’s not smooth, he doesn’t play games, he’s even sincere.”  They operate on a separate plane from the rest of us.

To a degree, they are non-conformists.  They speak their mind (or don’t), when we (the normal population) feel too ashamed.  Maybe, in some strange way, we aspire to be them.

For the article, click here.

Try to tip your waiter – Become more socially intelligent

My dad taught me well.  He used to say “any time you get crappy service at a restaurant, leave the waiter a dime, nickel, penny, and a button.”  The reason: because 16 cents is useless, and the button is insulting.

However, I find that waiters can teach us a pretty fundamental principle of social intelligence, a lesson that never fails to escape me in everyday life.

A friend down at JustTapTheGlass call this a “fundamental attribution error,” or an error where we judge behaviors to be based upon disposition, or situational elements.

When we fail to objectively look upon other people’s behavior, we judge their personalities for how we see them in the moment.  An easy example to understand this is that of your best friend.  If you best friend, who you’ve known for years, comes up to you in a bitter and angry mood, you’ll probably explain it by blaming it on bad circumstance.  You’ll say something like “what happened dude, you’re usually not like this,” and later on, you’ll justify his actions by exclaiming “he’s normally a chill guy, he just had a bad day.”  However, how often do you find yourself saying this about your waiter?

If a waiter comes to a table, and he/she is acting aggressively or inappropriately, we assume that waiter to be an angry, aggressive person.  We do not rationalize it by explaining “well, I’m sure this waiter usually treats his customers with respect, but he/she is having a bad day.”  By failing to look at the person objectively, we falsely judge their personality based on the situation.

The reason why I brought this up: correcting fundamental attribution errors is the easiest way to boost your social intelligence.  By looking upon the actions of others objectively, and judging them as you would judge yourself, you will find yourself understanding more people and the decisions they choose to make.

We’re all human.  By recognizing that a stranger is just as human as you, you are giving yourself a social edge in any situation.