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I was thinking about nerds and social skills. Specifically, the way that nerds (and other classes of socially inept people) tend to have poor social skills because there are two sets of rules on how to behave in social situations. The first is the conventional set, which everyone hears: just be yourself and people will like you, people value honesty and morality over expediency and selfishness, and so on. The second set isn't usually explicitly handed out, and mostly consists of caveats or outright contradictions to the conventional wisdom: being yourself actually means the parts of yourself which are generally pleasant for other people, people are hypocritical a lot of the time and will generally dislike you for pointing it out or acting in a way that makes them feel immoral by comparison, hinting about what you want is often more acceptable than asking for it outright, and so on.

The main difference between people who are socially skilled and those who are unskilled is that the skilled people implicitly learn the second set of rules by observing the people around them, while the unskilled people only have the first, and end up confused and frustrated that the rules they were taught don't work very well in most situations.

My theory out of this is that maybe the unskilled people just aren't visual learners. Learning the second, real set of social rules involves being sensitive to other people's expressions and body language, so that you can modify your own behaviour in response. If for whatever reason you just don't look at people's faces all that much or you're not sensitive to shifts in body language then the only extra information you'll have available is how people say things, which means you have to be at least twice as good at picking up that kind of information than someone who has both channels available to draw the same conclusions about what people are really communicating.
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What I found most fascinating about this is that the views on God are exactly what my friend Zhe and I discussed late into the night once upon a time, and which I reproduced in part in an earlier post about the nature of God

Still reading, and having a ball in the process :)


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