The Village Effect: How Face-to-Face Contact Can Make Us Healthier, Happier, and Smarter

Susan Pinker. Random/Spiegel & Grau, $26 (384p) ISBN 978-1-4000-6957-6
Pinker (The Sexual Paradox) explores the powerful effects of face-to-face contact in our increasingly computer-mediated world. While the benefits of human contact may seem like common sense, Pinker’s witty and informative book reveals a far more complex picture of these interactions. It may not surprise readers that having a web of friends and acquaintances makes both job-hunting and surviving the death of a spouse more palatable. But the biological effects that come from the community, and daily interactions with friends, partners, and parents are much less familiar. Pinker examines the benefits (and quirks) of these interactions, from development during breast-feeding to conversion disorder, and then repositions these findings to an age mediated by computer screens. In a time of constant visual entertainment and digital communication, “screens just don’t do the trick”—they can’t compete with the emotional signaling and modeling of face-time. Educational videos have no significant effect on a toddler’s language skills, and text messages of support have none of the mood elevating benefits of a phone call. Pinker’s book ends with practical tips to make room for community and contact in life, and serves as a hopeful, warm guide to living more intimately in an disconnected era. 15 Illus. Agent: John Brockman, Brockman Inc. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 07/28/2014
Release date: 08/26/2014
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