Saturday, August 19, 2006

Warning: Bores and buffoons may endanger your health

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Note the desperate measures above are probably not recommended cocktail party behaviour.

We've all been there. Sandwiched between the wall and perhaps an individual intent on telling us the minutest details of their life.


For me, a particular version of this torture involves someone telling me their intricate financial dealings. I don't want to know that they've sold x shares this week, made y amount, saved z by driving ten miles out of their way to buy groceries. Finances bore me silly and I have the bank balance to prove it.

I'm sure each of us has a similar scenario.

How to escape without seeming rude?

The good news is that you no longer need to fumble for a polite excuse. Bores, belligerents and buffoons should be avoided for legitimate health reasons according to a new study by Professor Eli Finkel of Northwestern University.

Professor Finkel claims that spending any time in the company of dull, difficult people can drain your ability to make sensible decisions and exert self-control. People forced to work or interact with difficult individuals are left mentally exhausted and far less able to do anything useful for a significant time.

In the study, volunteers were asked to work in pairs to manoeuvre an icon around a computer maze, with one volunteer giving the instructions, the other moving the joystick. Those operating the joysticks were actors, primed to respond to instructions in slow, stupid, inefficient and generally irritating ways.

Professor Finkel states that high maintenance or difficult interactions exert large demands on psychic energy because it becomes harder to regulate our own behaviour, such as restraining ourselves from committing acts of violence.

While I'm certain I wouldn't extend to violence, I'm sure my behaviours in response to that experimental situation would prove his point admirably. What about you?

Now, let me tell you about all about my toilet roll holder collection....

Resources

Finkel, E. J., Campbell, W. K., Brunell, A. B., Dalton, A. N., Chartrand, T. L., & Scarbeck, S. J. (in press). High-maintenance interaction: Inefficient social coordination impairs self-regulation. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

8 comments:

Alison said...

I just love that the guy who's doing all this work on bores and buffoons is called Professor Finkel. Are you sure you didn't make that up HP? It sounds like a Monty Python sketch to me.

Actually I'm jealous of those actors that got to act really stupid, slow, inefficient and really irritating. I would be great at that!~ Some people get all the luck.

drytears said...

This is so cool... we know now that those people are actually harmfull to us. Though it doesn't tell us how to get out of situations with them without being rude!

Tiesha said...

Uh oh. What does that mean for those of use who deal with difficult people for a career? Hmmmm...maybe that's why I act the way I do!

I love the picture!

healthpsych said...

Hey Alison,
Dr. Finkel. Yes, that never occurred to me. I'm sure the Pythons could make something wonderful out of this. Or, maybe, you. Didn't you do stand-up, you brave woman, you?

Hey Drytears,
Yes, a few social hints for getting out of these situations would be handy!

Hi Tiesha,
I have been waiting to use that picture for a while!!!! Thanks for dropping by.

jumpinginpuddles said...

well hate to say it but if someones boring me i simply smile and say you know ive listened to what you are saying but im sorry but i cant listen anymore i need to go. I actually do have friends even doing that ;)

healthpsych said...

Hey JIP,

Funny, my friends often say that to me!

It is a hard thing to do though without hurting someone's feelings.

psychgrad said...

That's funny...hard to regulate our behaviour such as committing acts of violence.

It's definitely cognitively taxing to have to regulate annoyance or boredom.

Maybe that was the real purpose of the study I participated in last week (as described in my blog)...to see how crazy you could make someone before they would stop self-regulating.

healthpsych said...

Psychgrad,
It sounds like it. That study would have made me nuts!