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The Village Effect

The Village Effect

How Face-to-Face Contact Can Make Us Healthier and Happier

By Susan Pinker
In her surprising, entertaining and persuasive new book, award-winning author and psychologist Susan Pinker shows how face-to-face contact is crucial for learning, happiness, resilience and longevity.
          From birth to death, human beings are hard-wired to connect to other human beings. Face to face contact matters: tight bonds of friendship and love heal us, help children learn, extend our lives and make us happy. Looser in-person bonds matter, too, combining with our close relationships to form a personal "village" around us, one that exerts unique effects. And not just any social networks will do: 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, Susan Pinker explores the impact of face-to-face contact from cradle to grave, from city to Sardinian mountain village, from classroom to workplace, from love to marriage to divorce. Her results are enlightening and enlivening, and they challenge our assumptions. Most of us have left the literal village behind, and don't want to give up our new technologies to go back there. But, as Pinker writes so compellingly, 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.


From the Hardcover edition.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1

Swimming Through the School of Hard Knocks

How Social Bonds Can Rejig the Outcome of Chronic Disease

When Sylvie La Fontaine was diagnosed with breast cancer in April 1999, she had just competed with her team in the Canadian Masters national swimming championships. Five foot ten, with rectangular tortoiseshell glasses and pixie-­cut hair, Sylvie favored snug wraparound tops she sewed herself, worn over leggings and boots; she hardly looked the part of a grandmother of three...
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Praise for The Village Effect

“What do Sardinian men, Trader Joe’s employees, and nuns have in common? Real social networks—though not the kind you’ll find on Facebook or Twitter. Susan Pinker’s delightful book shows why face-to-face interaction at home, school and work makes us healthier, smarter and more successful.”
—Charles Duhigg, New York Times bestselling author of The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business

“Intimate, face-to-face contact with partners, family, and friends is an ancient and deep human need. How do group-living primates like us make the transition to an online world in the evolutionary blink of an eye? Can they? Pinker shows how this is happening. And—even more important—she shows us how this should happen with a valuable prescription based on the best science. Pinker writes with authority and verve, and she offers an integrated treatment of online and offline interactions. She sketches our modern digital interactions on the ancient parchment of our minds.”
—Nicholas Christakis, author and psychologist, Human Nature Lab, Yale University 

“We have a biological drive for social interaction. We long to belong. Susan Pinker’s new book reveals the type of social contact that makes us tick. Written with verve, warmth, and style, it presents new science about what matters—raising healthy kids, leading a long and engaged life, being successful at work and play. This is a gem of a book!” 
—Andrew N. Meltzoff, Co-Director, University of Washington Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences; co-author of The Scientist in the Crib
 
“For those who look forward to life with cool robots, think again. Pinker shows us crucial personal interactions are essential to true human feelings. Brilliant and compelling.” —Michael Gazzaniga, Professor of Psychology, Director for the SAGE Center for the Study of Mind at the University of California Santa Barbara
 
“Susan Pinker’s The Village Effect is a bold, intelligent foray into what social isolation does to each of us in an age of technology. She offers keen insights into how social engagement enhances romance, parenting, career, family and friendship. Most impressively, Susan Pinker explores how gender and invisible social forces play into our daily lives.”
—Susan Shapiro Barash, author of The Nine Phases of Marriage and Toxic Friends
 
“In this provocative and engaging new book, Susan Pinker shows how intimate social contact is a fundamental human need, and argues that Facebook, Twitter, and the rest of social media fail to meet this need, diminishing the lives of children, teenagers, and everybody else. Pinker is a great storyteller and a thoughtful scholar, and she expertly blends together personal stories and scientific research about marriage, cancer, obesity, happiness, longevity, religion, menstrual synchrony, solitary confinement, and much more. This is an important book, one that will shape how we think about the increasingly virtual world we all live in.”
—Paul Bloom, Brooks and Suzanne Ragen Professor of Psychology, Yale University; author of Just Babies: The Origins of Good and Evil
 
“In a time when we rely increasingly on virtual forms of communication and networking,  The Village Effect  is an important reminder of the value we derive from our real, personal networks—and what we lose when we replace them with the social networks of the online age. Susan Pinker has written a fascinating, nuanced study of that most fundamental need: the need for human connection. No matter how far technology evolves, she reminds us, some things can never be replaced.”
—Maria Konnikova, New York Times bestselling author of Mastermind: How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes
 
“Susan Pinker has applied her keen intelligence to the question of human flourishing. This lively and meticulously researched book shows that face-to-face human interactions—not computer-mediated communication—are key to our well-being. Direct and frequent human contact is at least as important to our survival as clean air or good nutrition. ‘Hell is other people,’ declared the French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre. Not so, says Pinker. With a raft of surprising data, this compulsively readable book reminds us that loneliness and isolation are our blights—other people are the source of our happiness.”
—Christina Hoff Sommers, Resident Scholar, American Enterprise Institut

“Do you like email, text messages, and social media? So do I. But as Susan Pinker shows in this terrific book, electronic communication can never replace our deeply rooted, fundamentally human need for face-to-face interaction. Drawing on cutting-edge research in social neuroscience, and supplementing the science with case studies and sharp observations, Pinker makes a hardheaded case for a softhearted virtue. Read this book. Then talk about it—in person!—with a friend.”
—Daniel H. Pink, author of Drive and To Sell Is Human


Praise for The Sexual Paradox:

Winner of the APA William James Book Award

"Intelligent, thoughtful, and profoundly important." --Daily Mail

"Pinker provides a readable combination of personal and objective information." --Winnipeg Free Press