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Updates from The Texting Generation

This weekend, Parade Magazine reported that 100% of adults correctly guessed the emotions of people shown in photographs. But when it came to teenagers, only 50% guessed correctly. I’ve written before that the next generation has trouble reading a room. Previous generations spent most of their time engaging people, and therefore learned the techniques for reading emotions in people’s faces. But for a generation growing up looking at computer screens rather than people, what seems so simple is actually very difficult.

And it matters – a lot. How many of our conversations, meetings, or interviews hinge on our ability to read the emotions and body language of the other person? In a marriage, what people say isn’t always what they really mean. In a sales meeting or pitching a project, you can learn far more by how the person reacts rather than what they actually say.

It will be interesting to see how it plays out as the digital generation gets older. Is it merely a developmental lag? Or is it the result of valuing digital space more than people space?

It will be curious to see….

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6 Comments

  1. Reminds me of Derek Anderson of the Arizona Cardinals during an interview the guy asked him why he was laughing near the end of the forth quarter when the team was on the losing end.

  2. What’s fascinating is that the McLean study’s interpreters seemingly placed all of the eggs in the physiological basket. For anyone who might feel compelled to press the sociological or spiritual button as necessary components of the discussion (insert your appropriate comments above), at least one of the sources acknowledges the elephant in the room: “We aren’t saying teenagers can’t be responsible, can’t think ahead,” Weinberger says. “It’s just that their level of brain development makes it more difficult.”

  3. This is very interesting. I have teens, so I have observed this. However, as far as the study would it be more accurate to compare teens of 5 or 10 years ago against this sample? In other words, it seems clear that adults in general should be able to read facial expressions and use judgement better than teens. I think it is a development lag that will be a challenge to overcome for the new generation.

  4. It would be a shame to eventually lose the art of reading body language… since it’s a vital part communication. I am concerned about my teens and their social & digital media habits. They don’t understand my concern… you’d think I was speaking another language to them! The future will be telling.

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