A study finds that close friends, co-workers or family members can have trouble understanding each other because they develop communications shorthand that can sometimes derail meaning.
Steve Mirsky: Hello, Karen Hopkin, frequent contributor to the daily Scientific American podcast.
Karen Hopkin: Hello. Hey, did ya hear that thing about miscommunication?
SM: Miss Who?
KH: No, not Miss Who. What.
SM: Watt? James Watt, inventor of the improved steam engine in 1765? It was in all the papers.
KH: No. What’s on second. Who’s on first. I don’t know’s on third. But never mind that. There was a big study on how people have trouble communicating. SM: Not sure I follow you.
KH: Okay. So a psychologist at the University of Chicago found that sharing new information, or trying to share new information, can slow down communication, especially when the people doing the sharing know each other well.
SM: Know each other well what?
KH: What’s still on second. Turns out that people who live together, or work together, assume that the other person already knows what they’re talking about, so they tend to use shorthand. Which often just confuses the heck out of everyone involved.
KH: Yah, familiarity breeds con…fusion.
SM: You mean familiarity breeds contempt.
KH: Yeah. That too.