Wednesday, December 4, 2013


Everyone, please say hello to Sheldon. Sheldon is one of the best tv characters ever made.


Sheldon is a character played by Jim Parsons in the Big Bang Theory. He is a genius but he is also extremely socially awkward as proven by the video posted above.

But maybe his awkwardness comes from the fact that he doesn't know how to read people? Have you ever been told in your life that you read people well? ...That you always know what to say or how to handle a situation?

Well, you may be operating on a different end of a spectrum called Cognitive Complexity than Sheldon is. Cognitive complexity is just one part of a communication theory called Constructivism.

This theory in a nutshell works like this: If you have a higher cognitive complexity, you are better able to communicate in a social situation than your peers with low complexity.

Seems pretty simple, right?! Well let's take a moment to understand more about it, it will make you think about how "awkward" you may be ;)

First, lets start with the core of constructivism. That is, people look at the world through their own constructs. The constructs are learned from their own experiences and help them make sense of what is happening around them. 

Once you start to develop your own construct, you also start to develop a sense of cognitive complexity.

Would you know how to respond to someone with this look on their face? Well, then you would most likely have a higher cognitive complexity. That is, the ability to distinguish the subtle differences in personality and behavior between people. If you rank higher, you are more likely to be able better social skills because of your ability to read people.

Sheldon clearly in the video doesn't know how to react in social situations. He always says the wrong thing at the wrong time and doesn't really see how the other person is reacting. He probably doesn't have an ability to craft person-centered messages. Though somehow he has an ability to develop a friendship formula! Figure that one out...

Okay, back to comm theory. What are person-centered messages you may ask, well since I have your attention, I will explain in its three parts:
1.Tailor your messages for the situation and the person(s) you are speaking with.
2. The ability to predict how a person may respond to your message.
3. Being able to adjust your messages based on the direction that the conversation is headed.

Clearly, Sheldon doesn't really do any of these things. He will say anything to anyone. He REALLY can't read people. When you aren't as well adapted to tailoring your messages, you may find that your communication is running into more problems. You most likely (not always) will not have as successful communication as someone that has this skill.

This skill doesn't just happen to certain people and not others, typically there is reasons for people having higher cognitive complexity. 

Such as:

 Education- Through what you have learned, you can gain experiences to help you in social situations.

Age- you are more likely to have a higher complexity as you age and gain experiences.

Girls vs. Boys- Girls are more likely to have a higher cognitive complexity. Possibly because of how society teaches us about how to act and react.

Culture- You can pick up the cognitive complexity skills of others in your culture and learn to use it the same way.

As we saw in the video and have talked about, Sheldon doesn't have a high complexity but seems to manage. But having a higher complexity is actually something you should strive for, it can really help you in social situations. When you can predict how people are going to react and tailor your messages, you are more likely to obtain results that are consistent with your goals.

You may have friends who don't have a high complexity and it can make communicating with them sometimes awkward, they may at times be offensive on accident! They may be a Sheldon. So help them out! For those of you that are suave speakers and charming, use your skills.

I hope my cognitive complexity was high in relating this theory for those of you that are just learning it! It's a fun theory and makes you think about your own skills, I know I'm going to work on being a more successful communicator.

In the meantime....

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