Posts Tagged ‘Social Intelligence’

Can TV Shows Increase Social Skills? – Revisiting “Everything Bad is Good for You”

In Intelligence, Psychology, Psychology of Success, Success on August 20, 2009 at 3:33 pm


By Bakari Akil II, Ph.D.

In an episode of Hawthorne, a show about a Chief Nursing Officer at the fictitious Trinity Richmond Hospital, the main character Christina (Jada Pinkett-Smith) is faced with a dilemma. In an effort to ‘save’ a close friend, that is suffering from stage four cancer, she convinces him to participate in a clinical trial for cancer patients who are at stage two. She is able to coerce the researcher conducting the trial to admit her friend but it results in disastrous consequences for others. As a result of her friend being accepted into the program another man who has a ‘greater’ chance for survival is forced out. The man happens to be a patient of the Head Surgeon of her hospital and the Head Surgeon is also Christina’s good friend. When she is confronted about her activities she is forced to decide who gets the spot.

What would you do?

These type of predicaments are now standard fare for many television shows. The characters are placed in scenarios that are nuanced, layered and can’t easily be resolved. Steven Johnson, in his book, Everything Bad is Good for You, argues that in many ways these new types of shows improve your social and emotional intelligences. He asserts that multiple plot lines, no clear delineation of hero and villain and unending story lines keeps the audiences engaged and in our efforts to understand or critique we improve our social skills.

Great examples of these shows are Friday Night Lights, Weeds, Californication, LostSurvivorPrison Break, 24 and Nurse Jackie. These programs force audiences to use their cognitive skills in ways past television shows could not. The levels of logic, intuition and pure common sense audiences must exercise while viewing these shows raises the term ‘armchair quarterback’ to a new level. Additionally, the often outlandish behavior of characters on both scripted and ‘partially scripted’ (reality) TV shows are hard to ignore and not make judgments about.

But, do shows like these really help us in meaningful ways? Can nursing students learn valuable lessons from watching Hawthorne or Nurse Jackie?

The power of such shows, Johnson states, is that viewers often empathize with the characters or at the least think about what they would do if they were faced with similar situations. Constant viewing of these shows provides the audiences with opportunities to broaden and enrich their social toolbox and to think about some of their own emotional issues.

Ultimately, these shows are just entertainment, but many explore issues pertaining to gender, race, ageism, violence, politics and a host of ordinary, everyday problems. At the least, Johnson offers that people gather to watch these shows and discuss them at school, work and on the Internet; which he claims further increases their analytic skills or at least provides a reason for social interaction.

Do I agree fully? No. — But at least when I’m watching a Numb3rs marathon on Netflix or Weeds on Showtime I can argue that I’m improving my social skills.

Hey Guys, I have recently been added as a blogger at Psychology Today (Magazine). Come check out my blog, Communication Central


Yes Man, Socializing and Increased Health

In Networking, Psychology of Success, Success on June 19, 2009 at 11:30 pm

By Bakari Akil II, Ph.D.

Recently, I’ve been reading “Yes Man.” It is actually just as good as the movie, “Yes Man,” starring Jim Carrey. It had me laughing from the first few sentences and I was entertained throughout. One difference between the book and the movie though was that the movie was based in the US and the book in the UK. Another was the amount of time the book characters spent in pubs. The main character in the book, Danny, spent a lot of time socializing with friends, girlfriends and people he barely knew in watering holes throughout London.  

As I read, I kept thinking about a short article Daniel Goleman, author of “Social Intelligence,” wrote in 2008 comparing “the mental and physical health” between Americans (U.S.) and the British. Goleman asserted that U.S. citizens have higher rates of diseases such as diabetes and cancer, work longer hours and our wealthier citizens’ health is no better than the least wealthy of British citizens.


He cites research that opines one contributing factor is that people in the UK place greater value on spending time in pubs rather than those in the US. In other words, socializing with their “neighbors.” This also leads to a higher number of friends and acquaintances which plays a role in overall mental health.

We all know that social networks mean that others are there if we need them and vice versa. But besides that and fun, how often do people focus on socializing as a tool for overall mental and physical health?