Face to Face: Virtual reality is no substitute for the real deal

By Diane Cole

November/December 2014

Review of: The Village Effect: How Face-to-Face Contact Can Make Us Healthier, Happier, and Smarter

By Susan Pinker
Spiegel & Grau. 368 pages
ISBN: 9781400069576

It’s a compliment to author Susan Pinker’s accessibility that the basic takeaway from her engaging new book The Village Effect: How Face-to-Face Contact Can Make Us Healthier, Happier, and Smarter lends itself to a haikulike mashup of E. M. Foster, Barbra Streisand, and phone-text shorthand: only connect / people need people / must C U in person not just online.

The message is certainly not new to readers of Psychotherapy Networker, whose very name encodes the importance of belonging, connecting, and networking in worlds both real and virtual. But it’s a message well worth reinforcing, especially when presented with as much intelligence and wit as Pinker brings to the task. Moreover, Pinker, a developmental psychologist and the author of The Sexual Paradox, provides a distinctive perspective by placing both face-to-face and screen-to-screen contact within the broader context of the psychology of attachment, the neurobiology of emotions, and the traditional communities out of which our contemporary 24/7 connectivity evolved.

Pinker contends that wherever we live, we all can benefit from the “village effect.” She coined that term after visiting the Sardinian hilltop town of Villagrande Strisaili, a…

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