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Psycasm

Psycasm is the exploration of the world psychological. Every day phenomenon explained and manipulated to one's own advantage. Written by a slightly overambitious undergrad, Psycasm aims at exploring a whole range of social and cognitive processes in order to best understand how our minds, and those mechanisms that drive them, work.

My posts are presented as opinion and commentary and do not represent the views of LabSpaces Productions, LLC, my employer, or my educational institution.

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Sunday, December 12, 2010

ResearchBlogging.org

[Wherein our Hero whether sharing = caring, and what, exactly, do we get out of it?]

Sharing is caring, so they say (or at least 13 million hits on google says so). In my experience that phrase is used regarding the sharing of emotions and thoughts, rather than things and objects. And I've never really understood it. Why, if I share my feelings with you, does that show I care? Surely 'listening is caring' would be a more appropriate truism?

Maybe it's just me, maybe I'm a touch neurotic, but I vet what I'm going to say. I might have a story about myself, and in some way it seems important to me, but why would you care, why would anyone care? If it's a story that his a wider impact, it's funny, or generally interesting, or relevant to another party - sure - but if it's just me getting my thoughts and feelings out there, what's the point?(Internal Consistency Alert: this particular thought will segway into some science, so it falls under the category of 'generally interesting', bear with me).

Lots of things happen to me every day that I just don't share. Yet other people feel compelled to tell you just about anything, irrespective of it's potential significance of impact.*

So let's say I had a compliment paid to me by a stranger, as an example of event. You can even extend that to being hit on, in some circumstances (but there's obvious reasons why you wouldn't share that with everyone). But let's stick with a personal positive event, such as a compliment. I can't see a personally significant reason why you'd want to share that with anyone else**.

Keeping this in mind, Alea (2010), looked at the the quality and kinds of (positive) autobiographical memories that we share (disclose), that we recall easily but do not share (socially silent), and that we do not recall easily and do not share (silent). Before we get onto the results, it's interesting to point this out - silent memories (that is, ones poorly remember and unshared) may remain unshared because they are poorly remembered, alternatively, they may be poorly remembered because they are unshared. It's an interesting little thought that has some fascinating consequences - for example - I have read/listened to a good argument for sharing in couples because couples become like memory-banks for each other, and sort of save and backup memories that might otherwise atrophy. I think we've all experienced our parents talking about such-and-such and Mum corrects Dad on some detail, or vice versa, thus lending anecdotal support to this position.Yet in a sample of young and older males no difference was found between disclosed and socially silent memories - each was qualitatively rich and vivid. Silent memories, on the other hand, were less vivid and less rich. Alea (2010) took this a step further and looked at life-span memories, and found similar results. Alea (2010) also found that negative memories were shared less often. However an interesting point arises that some research (cited in Alea, 2010) suggests that the act of sharing information can lead to a de-emphasis on the negative aspects of the memory and a focusing on the positive. Perhaps negative memories appear to be shared less often because the negative memories that were shared have qualitatively changed over time.

So this seems to suggest that there might be personal benefit to sharing which may impact on one's own quality of life. But who gets what out of this? Reis, Smith & others (2010) speak of a process known as capitalization - Where sharing events with others leads to making the events more memorable, social, and leads us to maximises their significance. It is suggested that in doing this, and implicitly ensuring others acknowledge these events, that they become more positive (as above), more accepted and more memorable, thus bathing us in a more positive light - and being seen in a positive light is a highly prized and valuable social resource. They speak of the fine line between creating acceptance and creating envy (a back-fire, as it were), which is not positive. Although they don't appear to cover it in their paper, it might also go a ways to explaining why hanging out with complainers is so unpleasant, and why we often strive to avoid them (and might explain why complaining is not a very good social strategy - though I'm sure there are benefits to it, such as eliciting sympathy and support). And so it becomes a little more evident that if you scratch my ego's back, I'll scratch yours, and we can all feel a little bit better knowing what each of us thinks about the others.

Rime (2007) brings together the above points and makes some interesting prediction. Sharing a) reactivates the emotional significance of the event, and b) strengthens social bonds. He suggests this is important because it positively impacts on the social and emotional 'climate' of the group or community. Furthermore, it increases group cohesion and solidarity, and increases collective memory.  His paper is not one of research, but of theoretical frameworks, but you can take a stab at it yourself. Look at your family. You can probably estimate (say, out of 10) the degree of openness of sharing in your family, and the degree of cohesion, and the degree of positivity of the emotional climate. Sure, there's going to be some confounds, but I'm guessing that the more a family shares, the more cohesive and together they feel - which likely reinforces the whole sharing thing, and keeps they cycle flowing.

So perhaps sharing is caring, on some emotional level.It seems to have a bunch of benefits, which may include the reinforcement of memories, the re-evaluation of the nature of the memory, your own ability to regulate your self-image in others, and more broadly, fostering a climate for others (and yourself) to continue self-regulating your image (an over-generalization? What can I say, I like Evo-Psych).

So it's a the christmas-season, if you're not really a sharer (like me) maybe it's worth giving it a shot over the next few weeks. Who knows, at the very least it'll give you an opportunity to drop hints as to what you want as presents.

 

 



 

 

*as an aside - When people tell me they're going to go 'take a shit', that's a real turn off. In no universe yet conceived by the most abstract mathematics is it somehow important for me to know this.

** FYI, I'm not a robot. My girlfriend and I talk about these things. I just don't do it more generally.

---

Reis HT, Smith SM, Carmichael CL, Caprariello PA, Tsai FF, Rodrigues A, & Maniaci MR (2010). Are you happy for me? How sharing positive events with others provides personal and interpersonal benefits. Journal of personality and social psychology, 99 (2), 311-29 PMID: 20658846

Alea, N. (2010). The prevalence and quality of silent, socially silent, and disclosed autobiographical memories across adulthood Memory, 18 (2), 142-158 DOI: 10.1080/09658210903176486

Rimé, B. (2007). The Social Sharing of Emotion as an Interface Between Individual and Collective Processes in the Construction of Emotional Climates Journal of Social Issues, 63 (2), 307-322 DOI: 10.1111/j.1540-4560.2007.00510.x

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