The Vancouver Sun reports:
The silent treatment is almost universally acknowledged as negative, thanks to its damaging social and psychological outcomes. A new study, however, finds a notable exception when it comes to complete jackasses.
Turns out, when somebody is so obnoxious that it's exhausting just to talk to them, cutting conversational ties is actually a positive mental health strategy - one that allows people to save their cognitive capital for more fruitful activities. Say, watching paint dry.
"It's depleting to force yourself to have difficult conversations when all you want to do is ignore the person," said lead author Kristin Sommer, associate professor of psychology at Baruch College, City University of New York. "Ostracism can serve the regulatory goal of allowing people to conserve resources."
The research, published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, draws on two studies with nearly 120 people. In each, participants were asked to either snub or engage in polite conversation with someone who - unbeknownst to them - had been tasked to act highly likable (genial, attentive, thoughtful) or highly offensive (rude, impatient, arrogant). After four minutes, participants were escorted to a private room to complete an assignment requiring concentration and thought-regulation.