STARRED REVIEW
August 26, 2014

Face it: Personal contact is good for you

By Susan Pinker
Review by

Multitasking at work through texts and emails, pumping breast milk for your baby, then grabbing a decaf latte solo as a treat afterward: Is this you? It turns out our collective drive for greater efficiency is leading to lower productivity, reduced immunity and general malaise.

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Multitasking at work through texts and emails, pumping breast milk for your baby, then grabbing a decaf latte solo as a treat afterward: Is this you? It turns out our collective drive for greater efficiency is leading to lower productivity, reduced immunity and general malaise. In The Village Effect: How Face-to-Face Contact Can Make Us Healthier, Happier, and Smarter, author Susan Pinker (The Sexual Paradox) shares research indicating that face time is the answer to many of our troubles.

When MIT researchers enabled workers to share a 15-minute coffee break, they were surprised: Productivity increased significantly, and the workers reported being happier on the job. This may have been because they could share strategies for dealing with difficult customers, but there's also a less-quantifiable benefit to face time. Breast milk is full of good things for babies, sure, but there's new thinking that one of the benefits of breastfeeding, beyond the contents of the milk, is the physical closeness between mother and child; this form of coddling tends to produce children who are paradoxically more willing to take risks. Similarly, there has yet to be a TV show or computer program that engages children with books the way having a parent read to them from a young age does; what seems like a simple interaction affects much more than you'd think.

Pinker's research takes her to “blue zones” in Sardinia and intentional communities in Northern California. She's thoughtful, humorous and thorough, allowing for the downsides of a trustworthy face (Bernie Madoff had one), while shoring up her argument that finding time to connect on a personal level is more than worth the effort. While The Village Effect is short on ideas to help the disconnected find community, it's nevertheless a thought-provoking introduction to an idea we'll surely be hearing more about.

 

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The Village Effect

The Village Effect

By Susan Pinker
Random House
ISBN 9781400069576

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