Social Intelligence in a Candy Crush world

BY Teresa Kruger
Executive Consulting Psychologist
Teresa consults with clients as well as overseeing the operations in Gauteng, Limpopo, Mpumalanga and North West.

Social Intelligence has been a progressive topic for many academics and organisations. It is simply defined by Karl Albrecht as the ability to get along well with others and to get them to cooperate with you.

The definition in itself requires a degree of personal involvement and interaction. Social Intelligence includes an awareness of situations and the social dynamic that regulate it, often called “people smarts”.

Albrecht further classifies behaviour towards others as nourishing or toxic. A nourishing effect contributes to feelings of value, respect, affirmation, encouragement and competence. Toxic behaviour though makes others feel angry, devalued, frustrated or simply inadequate.

Bursts of dopamine

For most part, humans and organisations, try to enhance the nourishing effect of social interaction. Well, that was until Candy Crush hit the scene, the ridiculously simple yet addictive game that involves matching coloured candies.

Candy Crush is played by over 93 million people every day, and it accrues an estimated $850,000 daily through players purchasing lives and boosters to conquer new levels.

It is not just Candy Crush that rakes in the dough. Mobile games in general currently account for 33% of all app downloads and an impressive 66% of all app revenue. Research into mobile gaming not only revealed that gamers are drawn to the mobile platform, it also indicated that they are spending 46 percent more of their time on mobile devices than in previous years.

With new tablets and smartphones on display at a rapid rate, there will be even more distractions for gamers with savvy graphics and new gaming applications. The progressive complexity of games such as Candy Crush contributes to returning to the game and bursts of dopamine in the brain. If the game remained easy, you would quickly tire of the jellybean drops. This combination of technology and game obsession has serious implications for Social Intelligence.

Empty wallets and red eyes

Scientific evidence suggests that brain stimulating games like the Candy Crush phenomenon can increase the following abilities:

  • Following instructions
  • Problem solving and logical reasoning
  • Planning and resource management
  • Quick thinking
  • Strategy and anticipation
  • Perseverance
  • Pattern recognition
  • Concentration
  • Responding to challenges

While the above skills are necessary for holistic development, it comes at a price. Apart from the empty wallets and red-eye syndrome the games cause, what is the impact on the social environment, and Albrecht’s nourishing effect?

If we look at research on how to enhance Social Intelligence, the key indicators are:

  • To develop an attentiveness to other people;
  • Learn how to interpret cues received from others;
  • Monitor our own reaction in social settings.

It is not difficult to see how a simple game found on most mobile devices and taken into any social environment can impede on our enhancement of social competence.

Many people are left frustrated by another who does not give them due attention and does not listen to what is being said, instead, attempting to pass the next level. This not only cultivates anti-social intelligent behaviour, but contributes greatly to toxic actions and therefore diminishes healthy social interaction.

With the availability and accessibility of mobile games, it becomes increasingly difficult for organisations to monitor game trends and behaviours. Unlike internet access which can be controlled within the organisational domain, games are stored on devices belonging to employees.

Human Capital professionals should consider nifty and pre-emptive solutions, such as a review of the Social Media Policy to include gaming behaviour, creating greater awareness of the effects of mobile gaming on the social dynamic, and having a greater understanding of gaming trends and social interactions in their organisations to proactively analyse trends and engagement levels.

Not that sweet

It seems that while your high-score is going up, your Social Intelligence is going down, and could ultimately be more costly than the purchase of a few more candy lives. The feelings of anger, devaluation, and frustration generated, is unlikely to be sweet.