Touching the space between us

Slate has an excellent article on the psychology of collaborations that highlights the often underplayed role of the creative relationship and bemoans are obsession with the illusory ‘lone genius’.

The author is Joshua Wolf Shenk who you may recognise from one of the best psychology articles I’ve yet read – an Atlantic article on happiness and ageing – which we covered last year on Mind Hacks.

This new piece is part of a ongoing series that aims to pick up on our cultural neglect of the dynamic interaction between partners.

But a burgeoning field has shown that, from the very first days of life, relationships shape our experience, our character, even our biology. This research, which has flowered in the last ten years, took root in the 1970s. One reason, explains the psychologist and philosopher Alison Gopnik, was the advent of the simple video camera. It allowed researchers to easily capture and analyze the exchanges between babies and their caregivers. In video of 4-month-olds with their mothers, for example, the two mimic each other’s facial expressions and amplify them. So, a baby’s grin elicits a mother’s smile, which leads the baby to a full-on expression of joy—round mouth, big eyes. This in turn affects the mother, and so on in a continuous exchange that entwines the pair.

I also really recommend an excellent interview with Shenk over at NeuroTribes where he covers a surprising amount of ground.

Rather fittingly, the interview is all the better for the interviewer and the interviewee effortlessly bouncing ideas off each other.

Link to Slate piece ‘Two Is the Magic Number’.
Link to NeuroTribes interview with Shenk.

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