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Social Smarts Roundup

November 19, 2010

Friendly conversations can boost performance on cognitive tasks.


Smart chatting. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Having a friendly conversation for a few minutes can improve our performance on a variety of cognitive tests. But having a stressful, competitive interaction has no effect. This according to researchers at the University of Michigan, as reported in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science. The scientists suspect that positive conversation activates areas in the brain’s prefrontal cortex that are important in problem solving.

In other brain news, despite stereotypes of older people being grumpy and cranky, we actually get happier as we age. Stanford scientists gave beepers to 180 volunteers ranging in age from 18 to 94, and quizzed them for a week every five years to discover how happy they were. As the subjects got older, they became happier and less anxious. I’m Bob Hirshon for AAAS, the Science Society.