Socializing may improve mental function  DEC 14 2010

But only if it's friendly chat...competitive conversations don't result in the same improvement. (I don't think Words With Friends counts either...)

They found that engaging in brief (10 minute) conversations in which participants were simply instructed to get to know another person resulted in boosts to their subsequent performance on an array of common cognitive tasks. But when participants engaged in conversations that had a competitive edge, their performance on cognitive tasks showed no improvement.

"We believe that performance boosts come about because some social interactions induce people to try to read others' minds and take their perspectives on things," Ybarra said. "And we also find that when we structure even competitive interactions to have an element of taking the other person's perspective, or trying to put yourself in the other person's shoes, there is a boost in executive functioning as a result."

I've noticed this effect with myself but I always thought it was the result of my introversion, i.e. competitive conversations are more stressful and sap energy and mental function more quickly than normal conversations. I know a couple of people who enjoy competitive conversation and I've largely steered clear of those interactions since realizing I always felt so blah afterwards.

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