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  • NYS Writers Institute

Q&A with Susan Pinker, psychologist, journalist, and author

Developmental psychologist, journalist, and bestselling author Susan Pinker is very busy these days providing advice to the public about how to overcome loneliness and maintain human contact in an age of social distancing.

An authority on the importance of social connectedness, Susan visited the NYS Writers Institute in November 2014 with her book, The Village Effect: How Face-To-Face Contact Can Make Us Healthier, Happier and Smarter.

We caught up with her at her home in Montreal.

Q: What's the single most important thing we can do at the present time?

A: Call your mother!

Q: What do you do to connect with people?

A: Zoom with my three kids every Sunday. Call my 86-year-old mother and bring her food. Chat with my neighbors and friends from six feet away during my daily walks. Try to stay in touch with your people during this lockdown! If you’re on Zoom overload, just call.

Q: Any fresh news from your life?

A: I live in Canada, and the new, new things are the spring bulbs: narcissus, hyacinth and chionidoxa —also called angel of the snow — blooming in my garden.

Q: What do you do to stay sane?

A: Bake bread. I made my first every whole wheat sourdough a few days ago. I’m still learning. I also make wood and lino cut prints on my kitchen table, and I send them out to friends and family by mail.

Q: Anything you'd like us to read?

A: Washington Black by Canadian novelist Esi Edugyan. Her journey of imagination will take you right out of your pandemic concerns. Also Nemesis by Philip Roth.

Q: Any dishes we should try making?

A: Ratatouille. It’s rewarding and can keep you fed for several days. On day two or three, crack two eggs in the middle of a pan of ratatouille and make shakshouka for brunch. It’s excellent with hot sauce.

Q: What do you do to stay physically active?

A: I do an hour of Zoom "land workouts" with my swim coach, Omar, and 10 swim buddies three times a week, and go for walks in my neighborhood nearly every day. Sure wish I had a dog to accompany me!

Q: Any other advice?

A: This lockdown won’t last forever. Try to do something you’ve always wanted to do, if you have the opportunity.

More quarantine advice from Susan Pinker

“In fact, neglecting to keep in close contact with people who are important to you is at least as dangerous to your health as a pack-a-day cigarette habit, hypertension, or obesity.”

“Few see looking after others as therapeutic for the person who does the caretaking, or consider community involvement as therapeutic as drugs. Yet there is mounting evidence that a rich network of face-to-face relationships creates a biological force field against disease.”

― Susan Pinker, The Village Effect: How Face-to-Face Contact Can Make Us Healthier, Happier, and Smarter

The science of staying connected, Wall Street Journal, April 2, 2020

Meditations On loneliness, NPR TED Radio Hour, April 25, 2020: Full Episode:

The emotional benefits of getting older, Wall Street Journal, April 25, 2020

How to manage your loneliness, New York Times: April 20, 2020

Video excerpt from Susan Pinker's visit to the NYS Writers Institute, 2014

TED talk: April 2017


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