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(For the introduction to this interview, click here.  For Part 1, click here.  For Part 2, click here.)

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MT: This is Maura Thomas from Welcome to the third part of my interview with Dr. John Dovidio, psychology professor at Yale University.  You can see the previous posts by clicking the link at the top of this page and prior pages.

I think that’s a very valid point, and I also wonder if you think that it has detrimental effects? So people sitting in their office working all day have their email always open and it’s constantly downloading by itself. It goes out and pulls in the messages every five minutes, say, and so they, in some sense, feel “compelled” to always check in with it and to always tear their attention away or allow their attention to be stolen by the new communication coming in, regardless of what form, whether it’s email, or the ringing phone, or the instant message, or the text message, or their FaceBook updates, or their Twitter stream, or whatever it is. Even when I go to a coffee shop or a restaurant and I see people having meetings or having lunch, often both of them have their phones in their hand, and they’re lucky if any conversation is exchanged at all.  Tell me if you think that these effects are detrimental, or if you think we’ll just get used it to it and figure out how to manage it all.

JD: Actually, the research on whether it’s detrimental or not is really mixed.  There’s a lot of work that shows that it’s diminishing the kind of face-to-face personal connections that we’ve had. It limits the amount of time people spend in face-to-face contact, having discussions, sitting around the dinner table, giving each other undivided attention, without a doubt.  On the other hand, it’s expanded the social networks of people in ways that we couldn’t imagine before.  And a lot of people want to say that what this means is that we’re going to have a quantity/quality trade-off.  We’ll have 4,000 Facebook friends, but not one real friend.  Right?  But this is the kind of challenge that human beings have always had in terms of managing the seductive, immediate things, with learning how to channel that and control that and manage that, for your benefit, not to your detriment.  One of the problems for adolescents is that their inhibitory mechanisms are not fully developed, and so what they’ll tend to do is overly react to stimulation.  It’s only when they get a little bit older and develop both in terms of neurological development, but also just plain social development, that they can practice being able to control that.  So there are probably key times in development when kids are going to be overly stimulated in a way that could create habits of inattention later on in their lives.  But they are fully capable, I hope, of actually being able to reverse some of those things as their situation changes.

MT: Hmmm, well that’s very hopeful.

That was part three of my interview with Dr. John Dovidio, psychology professor at Yale University.  I hope you’ll come back tomorrow to hear or read Dr. Dovidio’s comments on our ability to adapt to and keep up with the ever-changing technology environment.  Also, if you’re interested in reading up on the current research, please visit the “Research and Resources” page of this website. This is Maura Thomas from  Thanks for visiting!

(Click here for Part 4.)