The Village Effect

The Village Effect

How Face-to-face Contact Can Make Us Healthier, Happier, and Smarter

Book - 2014 | First edition
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From birth to death, human beings are hard-wired to connect to other human beings. Social networks matter: tight bonds of friendship and love heal us, help us to learn and remember, extend our lives and make us happy. But not just any social networks: we need the real, face-to-face, in-the-flesh encounters that tie human families, groups of friends and communities together. Marrying the findings of the new field of social neuroscience together with gripping human stories, developmental psychologist Susan Pinker explores the impact of face-to-face contact from cradle to grave, from city to Sardinian mountain village, classroom to workplace, from love to marriage to divorce. Most of us have left the literal village behind, and don't want to give up our new technologies and go back there. But, Pinker writes, we need close social bonds and uninterrupted face-time with our friends and families in order to thrive -- even to survive. Creating our own "village effect" can make us happier. It can also save our lives.
Publisher: New York : Spiegel & Grau, [2014]
Edition: First edition
Copyright Date: ©2014
ISBN: 9780812981919
Branch Call Number: 302 PINKER
Characteristics: 368 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm


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Jul 28, 2016

Audio version is well-read. Thought provoking.

ksoles Oct 06, 2014

"The Village Effect" highlights the real and tangible benefits of belonging to a community. No, virtual social networks don't count. But whether you socialize in your familial, remote Italian town, take part in a worship group or merely sit down for a family meal complete with conversation, what matters, argues Susan Pinker, is that you connect with other humans. Indeed, having people to rely upon and spend time with proves as beneficial to health as eating right and exercising. The more we isolate ourselves, the sicker we become, the more pain we experience and the sooner we die.

In a sexist but evident way, this book shows that matriarchy rules society; women position themselves as alphas in most villages and can determine who fits into the community and who sits on the fringes. Men, however, consistently display the inclination to squirrel away, especially if they're married. If they make no effort to socialize, they easily find themselves one person away from being completely alone. But interestingly, Pinker also explores the negative aspects of a close-knit circle. She cites the Ponzi schemes of Bernie Madoff and Eddie Jones as an example of the dark side to community; too much trust can backfire.

Susan Pinker writes in an unassuming manner and renders facts with a plain ease. She sites a multitude of studies but cohesively weaves them into a well-researched, decisive thesis. She also brings personality into the chapters, relaying anecdotes and adding humanity to what would otherwise read as a tedious synthesis of research papers. At times the reader wants to interject that correlation does not necessarily mean causation but overall the varied sources and results of environmental tracking get harder to ignore when they all reach the same conclusions.

"The Village Effect" ultimately proves that you cannot mentally, physically or emotionally afford to become an island unto yourself. It offers a clear indictment against solitude and of thinking that a virtual community can provide any of the mortal benefits of a physical one.


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Dec 12, 2015

Social contact around the dinner table seemed to promote family cohesion and "problem-focused coping," the auhtors write, which probably reduced the girls' risky antics later... The researchers discovered that Americans relate half as many stories at mealtimes as Norwegians do, but they explain things twice as often. And when they do, they like it to be dramatic. (Norwegian preschooler: Nils wore a green sweater to preschool today. American preschooler: Johnny threw up today and it was orange.) What's common to both statement is that they invite parents to respond - to throw the ball back to the child, who will likely toss it back again, keeping the volley going.

That's why I am suggesting that shared meals offer a head start for picking up the subtleties of language and social interaction. They also help us feel that we belong somewhere. p.120-1


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