Saturday, February 14, 2015

Let's Get Scientifical #14: Love = Mailed Letters > E-Mailed Letters?

Welcome to Unwritten's February blog event! Of course, this is the month of love, so I wanted to celebrate that theme as I've done in year's past. But this year, I've decided to add a scientific spin to it. All month long, talented authors from several genres will write about some aspect of love from their books as it relates to science. It could be social, psychological, biological, or anything in between. Our blog event is sponsored by "HMC by Kate", a fabulous independent jewelry crafter. Kate's giving away one of her very beautiful necklaces that I think fits our theme perfectly. She's also offering everyone who stops in a 10% discount on any item from her Etsy store. Be sure to enter the giveaway at the end of this post and check out her lovely offerings! Without further ado, please welcome our guest author:

Can Love Come Through the Mail? 

Proving that Mailed Letters Create More Positive Reaction than Emailed Letters

By D. G. Driver, author of Passing Notes

“But I really want to see her.”
Letter first.
“How should I give it to her?”
Mail is best. It is a thrill to receive mail.
“Mail is slow. We call it snail mail these days for a reason. That’ll take days. Can’t I just slip it into her locker?”
No. Mail it. Heed my words and learn.

In my Young Adult novella, Passing Notes, Mark is in love with a girl that is smart and beautiful and hasn’t paid him a bit of attention in all the years he’s adored her – until now. Only, he doesn’t have any flare for romance and all the texts and emails he sends to her backfire. Suddenly he begins to find notes advising him on how to write a love letter: it must be on nice stationery, in cursive, and sent through the real mail. Why? This mysterious teacher knows it will get the best result.

It turns out that Mark’s ghostly helper is right. Dr. Simon Moore, Chartered Psychologist at the British Psychological Society, conducted a study on the psychological impact of letters verses email. There wasn’t a single instance in the study where an emailed message got a more favorable response than a hand-written, mailed letter. Some of things discovered were that participants in the study felt that hand-written letters were more personal and that they read the physical letters with more attention rather than scanning an email. 15% the participants stated they would definitely read through all of their emails carefully, while 85% said they would definitely read letters more carefully. Interestingly a whopping 95% of the participants rated letters as being ‘more real’ and 80% of them thought letters offered a better chance of persuading someone of something.” (1)

In another study (2005), it was proven that people felt that physical letters were more trustworthy and polite. The effort of taking time to write a note by hand, fold it, put it in an envelope, address and stamp it and then drop it in a mailbox was considered to be more earnest. On the other hand, the ease of email and something called the “online disinhibition effect” seemed to make dishonesty or rude comments more likely to occur. A study done in 2010 found that people considered email to be more like “chatting”, which resulted in emails coming across as less sincere. Recipients of emailed letters said they felt “emotionally distant” as compared to physical letters. Also, emails can be sent impulsively, preventing the author from taking the time to make sure the words written were the words intended. Writing a letter by hand allows the sender time to choose words more carefully and weigh the value in mailing it.

And what does this mean for love letters, specifically? In an article for Psychology Today, Aaron Ben-Zeév Ph.D. wrote, “It is often easier to describe your heart in writing… letters can be reread again and again and thereby enhance romantic responses.”(2) So, I’m pretty sure he’d agree with Mark’s love letter tutor in my book.

I found articles on this topic from several major periodicals, including the Wall Street Journal and Forbes Magazine, leading me to believe that letter writing is still important to a lot of people and not something to let fall away. So, here’s your homework after reading this highly scientific and educational post: read Passing Notes for fun, and when you’re done, write a sweet letter to someone (lover, friend, family) and send it by mail. See if all these psychologists (and the ghost from my book) are correct, and enjoy the response you get in return.

(1) “A Study Comparing the Psychological Impact of Sending and Receiving Letters v. Emails”

D. G. Driver is a member of SCBWI and lives in Nashville. She sold her first story 20 years ago and is amazed at how fast time has flown since then. As Donna Getzinger, she has had several critically acclaimed and award-winning nonfiction books published . In 2014 she changed her name to D. G. Driver and had her first young adult novel, Cry of the Sea, published by Fire and Ice Young Adult Books. She also had a story published in the pirate anthology A Tall Ship, A Star, and Plunder. Passing Notes is her 2nd book with Fire and Ice, and later this year her middle grade novel No One Needed to Know will be published by Schoolwide Inc.


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