While my pride will not usually let me be seen purchasing or reading a People magazine, blatantly, out in public, I secretly covet the times when I can pluck a recent issue from the magazine rack at the gym to flip through while huffing and puffing on the elliptical.
Well, that’s not entirely true. I do allow myself to buy an issue, occasionally, when important world events happen, such as the Duchess of Cambridge giving birth to a Prince George. These kind of things fall under the political need-to-know news heading. Right?
Turns out, there’s a plausible reason why my brain, and many others, instinctively like the sensational stories within People‘s glossy covers, while my intellect chides me for spending my time indulging in this guilty pleasure. Our brains are wired to seek to be part of the community because, in the safety of a group, survival is more probable meaning greater likelihood of passing on the genes. Recent research shows that the human brain is programmed to connect with others in small groups and our minds are partly defined by their intersection with other minds (See: The Mind And The Brain: What’s The Difference?).
Our village oriented brains innately crave knowing about others and their what, when, where, and how. In an increasingly segmented and fast paced world, where we might live in crowded cities or packed communities, cram onto buses, and brush shoulders at busy stores, we may interact with more people in one day, in quick, impersonal, one-time transactions, than our ancestors did in a life time, but without the feeling of connection. This modern lifestyle can foster a real loss of personal closeness needed to give the brain a measure of calm and security.
In A Calm Brain: How to Relax into a Stress-Free, High-Powered Life, Gayartri Devi, M.D. writes:
People’s popularity speaks to the need for community. Even as the frontal lobes champion the acquiring of possessions and keeping up with the Jones in a McMansion studded gated community, the core brain seeks closeness with the Jones in a yurt. Physical intimacy trumps riches in core-brain values. Modern society, while addressing in painful redundancy many of our physical needs, fails to satisfy the core brain by giving short shrift to communal needs.
…the continuity provided by “knowing” these strangers may be soothing to the core brain. It provides a measure of calm.
So, while I may feel a bit more justified in buying the next issue of People that piques my interest (about some worldly topic, of course) while checking out at the grocery store, I still think I’ll peruse it at home. I might have to buy the one about Miley Cyrus’ twerking at VMAs just to see what’s being said about it while telling myself that I legitimately need to know about Linda Rondstadt’s Parkinson’s for brain info.