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Geeks Will Inherit The Earth


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According to recent research by the University of Virginia, while Fonz type people do well in school from the popularity stakes, Geeks eventually take over in later life. Could this be that 'The Cool' are actually immature and Geeks are not, so that when students become adults, they see this as they become mature themselves?

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Why would "cool" kids necessarily be more immature than "geeky" kids? I think maybe "cool" kids get used to everything going their way and actually expect it to continue while "geeky" kids may feel or actually need to worker harder to make things happen for themselves. I'm not convinced this is an "immature" attitude on the part of the "cool" kids...

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What would you call it then? I'm not sure I'd say it was deliberately immature and maybe at that age they are just more lucky than geeks but maybe life in the adult world requires more effort. Do lucky people turn to gambling or an easy going lifestyle that doesn't fit in with the working world, becoming drifters (like me) because they don't have strong roots? I've worked hard to get my ideas noticed - that is as close as I get to this study's results. Could it be how you define maturity and immaturity too? I think geeks equals settlers as the cool are more like pioneers and maybe the popularity stakes change because stability is seen as an adult facet (Working 9-5, buying a house and settling down to raise a family) - what do you think? How do you define adult?


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According to recent research by the University of Virginia, while Fonz type people do well in school from the popularity stakes, Geeks eventually take over in later life.

I think you’re referring to “What Ever Happened to the ‘Cook’ Kids? Long-Term Sequelae of Early Adolescent Pseudomature Behaviour”, an 11 June 2014 paper by Joseph Allen, Megan Schad, Barbara Oudekerk and Joanna Chango of the UVA, which this 12 June Business Insider magazine article appears to me to summarize well.


Allen and coauthors use a specific definition of “cool” in their paper: “pseudomature”, which they describe as “a desire to achieve social maturity without a concomitant level of emotional and behavioral maturity”, confine to children age 13-15, and determine using these measurements:

  • “minor deviant behavior” – minor crimes like stealing from parents and sneaking into movies
  • “precocious romantic behavior” – how many people they have “kissed a long time and touched”
  • “selection of attractive peers” – how attractive their closest same-gender friends are
  • “valuing of popularity” – how they answer the question “how important is it to you to be popular with a lot of different kinds of kids?”
  • “sociometric popularity” – how popular they are as ranked by their schoolmates
  • “alcohol and marijuana use” – self-reported frequency of use
  • “participant criminal behavior” – more serious crimes
  • “close friend competence” – as rated by their closest friend, using a standard questionnaire

Could this be that 'The Cool' are actually immature and Geeks are not, so that when students become adults, they see this as they become mature themselves?

I don’t get that from the study, or think it’s true, as a rule. Allen et.al. assume 13-15 year olds, “cools” or not (they don’t make reference to “geeks” or similar terms – that appears to have been added by reviewers such as the BI’s Dina Spector, who closed her article with “rock on, nerds”) are immature. Cool – high-pseudomature – kids are distinct from others in that they try unusually hard to be more mature than they are.


What their study aims to validate is whether the “pseudomature” as they calculated it correlated stongly with the “valuing of popularity” (it did), and whether sociomentic popularity decreased for high-pseudomaturity children and increased for low-PM ones from ages 13-15 (it did, though the high-PM chidren still averaged higher sociometric popularity than the low-PM one at all ages in the study), and whether being high-PM children were more likely to have drug, legal, personal, and other problems as young adults age 21-23 (they were).


The key thing I get from Allen et.al’s study is something I’ve usually assumed is true – that children who try too hard and too soon to be adults have trouble – and that their use of “cool” isn’t much like mine. To me, the old TV sitcom character Fonzie, Neil Gaiman, Bono and the late Steve Jobs are examples of “cool”, while Steve Balmer, Tim Cook, and Donnie and Marie Osmond are examples of “not cool”. Both groups contain people I’d term geek and not geek, and some.


I don’t think you can put “cool” and “geek” on opposite ends of a continuum.


It’s difficult even to agree on simple definitions of the terms. Falling back on the terms’ history is only a little useful:

“Cool” originally and still means essentially “calm”. When I was a teenage, in the 1970s, and still among my age group and culture, and most of the others with which I’ve contact, it had a specific implication of “calm” in the sense of “not going to get angry and report you to the police for having drugs”.


Prior to it’s adoption as a term for a technically savvy person, geek meant “freak”, as in a physically deformed, usually mentally retarded person. In old carnival sideshow talk, there was a further, more specific implication of a deformed person who ate unpleasant things as part of an act.

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I know plenty of geeks who can be immature, but it depends on the setting. When I am goofing off playing a game is a great example, but when it comes to work that is another story altogether. The biggest thing I see is that most geeks end up being the boss of something, in some type of field (manager, GM, and so on), while most of the jocks and cheerleaders from high school still love being popular years down the road at the school reunion. I really don't think one is better than the other, I am pretty much a firm believer that we all go through stages of being immature at any given age.

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Yes trying hard to be cool, is not the same as being cool, calm and collected (in charge of your own life). I think truly cool people have no urge to do anything in particular but are quite happy just to be themselves and enjoy life. I think hotheads aren't cool because they are trying to cover up the fact that they are lying about themselves. If you journey to The East and Eastern religion, you see this relaxed attitude is the objective most sought - that of having no urge for material possessions and to be genuinely yourself as a source of true happiness and true contentment: Not to be jealous of others and to not want material possessions. Talented geeks I don't think are seeking to get rich but are equally doing what they enjoy and if they achieve success that is an added bonus. I think being mature is being genuinely yourself and being immature is not being authentic

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