How Our Social Contacts Affect Our Lives
The fact that social contacts and close relationships contribute to individual health and well-being is well documented by numerous studies. However, socializing seems to be beneficial in a more unexpected way: According to a study by Oscar Ybarra from the University of Michigan and his colleagues, socialising seems to help improve and sustain people’s brain fitness.
Participants in their study were adults without cognitive impairments between 24 and 96. They had to specify their amount of social interaction and participate in a test to assess their cognitive performance. The researchers found that the more participants interacted socially by talking to and visiting friends and relatives, the better their performance on the measure of cognitive functioning. This finding applied to all age groups. In a follow-up study, the researchers found that young adults between 18 and 21 who had previously been in a social interaction or intellectually stimulating situation outperformed other young adults who had merely watched a movie in a test of cognitive functioning.
These two studies point to the conclusion that social interaction and cognitive performance are interrelated and that socializing facilitates cognitive functioning. So if you want to train your brain, interacting with others is a good option. Social interaction puts more demands on your brain than you might think: you have to pay attention to each other, maintain in memory the topic of the conversation and respective contributions, adapt to each other’s perspective, infer each other’s beliefs and desires, assess the situational constraints acting on them at the time, and inhibit irrelevant or inappropriate behavior. Therefore, socializing with others can help improve your brain fitness.
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