The Tribune presents its latest column: 'Fully Known'


Fully Known: At 5 months, you could read a monkey’s mood

You know those suggested links that peep out at you from the right side of your screen when you’re reading an article? If you're like me, they make your tabs breed like guppies. My Google Chrome browser is currently supporting 17 separate tabs. After reading these 17 articles, I know that:

Wide-faced men negotiate more successfully than thin-faced men (and presumably have been doing so since humans began negotiating), but researchers from the University of California, Riverside, London Business School and Columbia University just discovered this in July 2014.

 In 2013, researchers from Brigham Young University discovered that 5-month-old infants can read the moods of other infants, and the moods of dogs, monkeys and classical music, too.

 In 2012, researchers from Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine discovered that some people function at a dramatically lower IQ in group settings.

In 2011, researchers from Duke University discovered that those who receive Botox treatments struggle to empathize with others because, after the stiffening of their own faces, reading others people’s emotions becomes difficult.

Maybe this was a gimmicky way to introduce a new column on social dynamics and psychology. It depends--either these studies sound like fun facts and nothing more, or they instigate questions in your mind: Why do we live in a world where the width of your face determines your economic chances? Why do rational beings decide whether they like a face within 13 milliseconds (no, really, 13 milliseconds)? Is this right, or wrong, or too unavoidable to matter? These questions happen to make greater fodder for conversations, conversations that grow into more than small talk.

 There’s a second reason for this column’s existence: you can’t read about human behavioral science without the findings implicating you. And then you realize something: no transparent glass lets you view your subconscious mind. You can’t see your subconscious any more than you can see your kidneys. In many ways, you’re a stranger to yourself.

 I know a good handful of introverts at The King's College who have bought (or been thoughtfully gifted) a copy of Susan Cain’s book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking. I bought and read it over last Christmas break. About two-thirds of the way through the book, I read something so sensationally relevant to myself that I uncurled myself from my spot in front of the family fireplace and stalked around the ground floor of my house, reading this quote to all nearby relatives:

 "In one well-known experiment, dating all the way back to 1967 and still a favorite in-class demonstration in psychology courses, Eysenck placed lemon juice on the tongues of adult introverts and extroverts to find out who salivated more. Sure enough, the introverts, being more aroused by sensory stimuli, were the ones with the watery mouths."

 Maybe my claim that this added “so much new insight” was tinged with a little pride. Yeah, I’m an introvert. I walk into a crowded room and feel the pulsing of souls, their fears and loves. Such is my curse.

Well, introversion is so rarely rewarded by the meritocracy of confidence we live in, so it’s nice to reframe our “lack of confidence” as “sensory overstimulation.” But Eysenck’s study primarily interested me because it made sense of me. For instance when my little sisters sit next to my in my pew at church, I get agitated when their sleeves brush against both my right and left arms. Related to my introversion? Quite possibly.

 So that’s the goal: to better understand the way we relate to each other and to ourselves. I’ll be talking about networking in next week’s column because it’s a situation which makes most people nervous, and when we’re nervous, we’re less observant.

 I said earlier that social dynamics make for dynamite conversation topics--both personal and intellectual, scandalous and scientific. I really hope the conversation begins in the comments below. You'll have more to say on the moral dimension of relationships, I'm sure, than the otherwise fascinating articles covering the newest studies in sociology in The Atlantic. There will be questions to ask: the how, the why and the "now what?" questions.

I look forward to puzzling through these inquiries together.