Socialising Makes Us Smart
Humans are social animals, in the tradition of Aristotle Thomas Aquinas calls us rational animals and social beings. How are the two sides connected?
Article lead author Oscar Ybarra* and his colleagues at the University of Michigan explored the possibility that social interaction improves mental functioning. In a series of related studies, they tested the participants’ level of cognitive functioning, comparing it to the frequency of participants’ social interactions.
They found that people who engaged in social interaction displayed higher levels of cognitive performance than the control group. Social interaction aided intellectual performance.
“Social interaction,” the authors suggest, “helps to exercise people’s minds. People reap cognitive benefits from socializing,” They speculate that social interaction “exercises” cognitive processes that are measured on intellectual tasks. “It is possible,” the authors conclude, “that as people engage socially and mentally with others, they receive relatively immediate cognitive boosts.”
Pers Soc Psychol Bull 2008; 34; 248 DOI: 10.1177/0146167207310454
Mental Exercising Through Simple Socializing: Social Interaction Promotes General Cognitive Functioning
Oscar Ybarra, Eugene Burnstein, Piotr Winkielman, Matthew C. Keller, Melvin Manis, Emily Chan and Joel Rodriguez
The online version of this article can be found at: http://psp.sagepub.com/cgi/reprint/34/2/248
Social interaction is a central feature of people’s life and engages a variety of cognitive resources. Thus, social interaction should facilitate general cognitive functioning. Previous studies suggest such a link, but they used special populations (e.g., elderly with cognitive impairment), measured social interaction indirectly (e.g., via marital status), and only assessed effects of extended interaction in correlational designs. Here the relation between mental functioning and direct indicators of
social interaction was examined in a younger and healthier population. Study 1 using survey methodology found a positive relationship between social interaction, assessed via amount of actual social contact, and cognitive functioning in people from three age groups including younger adults. Study 2 using an experimental design found that a small amount of social interaction (10 min) can facilitate cognitive performance. The findings are discussed in the context of the benefits social relationships have for so many aspects of people’s lives.