Empathy Diminution Syndrome

As expected, science is now working overtime on justifications for sending senior citizens to Shady Acres:

Scientists claim to have finally figured out why grandparents can be embarrassing. They did it by studying a group of over 60s watching The Office, the sitcom featuring Ricky Gervais as David Brent, a socially inept middle manager.

Psychologists found that older people were less adept at spotting Brent’s gaffes, which include him abandoning a wheelchair-bound woman in a stairwell during a fire alarm and failing to realise he cannot dance.

Compared to younger participants, the older volunteers were also less able to identifying the varying emotions of the other characters.

“Gaffes”? Those aren’t gaffes. Those are conscious — well, maybe not so conscious, in the case of his dancing ability or lack thereof — manifestations of Brent’s actual personality as written, which, to borrow a line from an American sitcom, was evidently acquired at the Jerk Store. It’s not like he’s suddenly casting a light on himself; he’s always like that.

I suppose, though, you have to have vast experience with other people to recognize such things, and the most efficacious method of acquiring that experience is to live long enough to have seen them already, as those of us who have been throwing away AARP membership offers for decades can tell you. It’s not that we can’t identify people’s emotions; it’s that we just don’t give that much of a damn. Now all of you, get off my lawn.

(Via Fark.)





3 comments

  1. McGehee »

    3 February 2011 · 1:05 pm

    Scientists claim to have finally figured out why grandparents can be embarrassing. They did it by studying a group of over 60s watching The Office

    The funny thing is, I’m embarrassed that my wife likes that show.

  2. fillyjonk »

    3 February 2011 · 3:12 pm

    Or, a corollary to what you suggest: maybe over 60s are better at saying, “Bless his heart, he just doesn’t know any better.”

    (Which is I think probably what I’ll be like, once I am an over-60. I just like being able to say “bless his heart” or “bless her heart” and have it mean what Southern women truly mean it to mean…)

  3. Brett »

    3 February 2011 · 5:07 pm

    I’m nowhere near 60, but I’d have problems noticing Brent’s “gaffes” because Gervais and both versions of The Office bore the hell out of me.

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