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  • Hello, and welcome to "6 Minute English".

  • I'm Neil.

  • And I'm Dan.

  • Now then, Dan, do you ever feel awkward?

  • Awkward?

  • Yes, feeling uncomfortable, embarrassed or self-conscious in a social situation where something isn't quite right.

  • Mmm... sometimes.

  • I remember always feeling very awkward watching TV with my parents if there was an explicit love scene.

  • You know, people canoodling.

  • Oh yes, me too!

  • And that feeling of awkwardness is what we are looking at in today's 6 Minute English, and how it is all connected to social rules.

  • "Social rules" are the unspoken rules which we follow in everyday life, the way we interact with other people and particularly with strangers.

  • Yes, for example, if you're waiting at a bus stop, it's okay to talk about the weather to a stranger.

  • But it would be very awkward if you broke that social rule by asking them about, oh I don't know, how much money they earned.

  • Oh yes, that would be wrong, wouldn't it?

  • And we'll find out about another awkward situation on the underground railway later in the programme.

  • Before that though, a quiz.

  • Which city has the oldest underground railway?

  • Is it a) London b) New York or c) Tokyo?

  • Aha! Well, I'm pretty confident about this!

  • I think it's London.

  • Well, I'll have the answer later in the programme.

  • Dr. Raj Persuad is a psychologist.

  • He was a guest on the BBC radio programme "Seriously".

  • He was talking about social rules.

  • How does he say they affect our lives?

  • How do we understand what the implicit social rules are that govern our behaviour?

  • They're so implicit.

  • They're so almost invisible yet we all obey them.

  • I.e., they're massively powerful that the only way to get at them, because you couldn't use an MRI brain scanner or a microscope

  • What's the tool you would use to illuminate the social rules actually govern our lives?

  • How do they affect our lives?

  • He says that they govern our behaviour, they govern our lives.

  • This means that they 'control' our lives.

  • They 'rule' our lives.

  • What's interesting is he says these social rules are 'implicit'.

  • They are not written down anywhere.

  • They are unspoken but understood.

  • If they are unspoken and not written down, how can scientists and sociologists study them?

  • How can they find out about them?

  • They need a way to illuminate the rules.

  • This means a way of shining a light on them to see what they are.

  • Here's Dr. Persaud again.

  • How do we understand what the implicit social rules are that govern our behaviour?

  • They're so implicit.

  • They're so almost invisible yet we all obey them.

  • I.e., they're massively powerful that the only way to get at them, because you couldn't use an MRI brain scanner or a microscope

  • What's the tool you would use to illuminate the social rules actually govern our lives?

  • One way to find out about a rule is to break it.

  • Another word for 'break' when we're talking about rules is 'breach' and breaching experiments were used to learn about social rules.

  • Here's Dr. Persaud describing one of those experiments.

  • You breached the social rule on purpose.

  • So a classic one - people would go into the Metro, the underground railwayTubeand there'd be only one person sitting in a carriage.

  • You would go and sit next to that person.

  • And if that led to awkwardness or discomfort, where the person got off the tube stop immediately, you had discovered a social rule.

  • So, what was the experiment?

  • Well, quite simply, find a nearly empty train carriage and then go and sit right next to someone rather than a distance away.

  • If that person then feels uncomfortable or awkward, and that's something you can tell by watching their behaviour.

  • For example, do they change seat, move carriage or get off the train completely?

  • If they do, then you know you've discovered a rule.

  • So you find a rule by breaking it or breaching it.

  • OK, time to review our vocabulary, but first, let's have the answer to the quiz question.

  • I asked which city has the oldest underground railway.

  • Is it a) London b) New York and c) Tokyo?

  • Dan, you were pretty confident.

  • I was! I said London, but...now I'm having second thoughts.

  • I think it might be New York.

  • Oh

  • That's a little bit awkward, isn't it?

  • Well, it is London, so I don't know if you're right or wrong!

  • I feel a bit uncomfortable now.

  • The facts are that London opened in 1863.

  • New York was 1904 and Tokyo, 1927.

  • Well done, and extra bonus points if you knew any of those dates.

  • Now it's time for our vocabulary.

  • I hope it doesn't make you feel awkward, but can you start, Dan?

  • Of course!

  • And the adjective 'awkward', and its noun 'awkwardness', are on our list for today.

  • They mean 'an uncomfortable feeling in a social situation'.

  • This is all connected with the idea of social rulesunspoken, but well-known rules which we follow in daily life to avoid awkward situations.

  • The rules, as Neil said, are not spoken and they are not written down but we know them and understand them.

  • They are 'implicit'.

  • And these implicit rules govern our lives.

  • The verb 'govern' means to 'control and rule'.

  • To see something clearly, either in reality or metaphorically, you need to put some light on it.

  • You need illuminate it.

  • And that was the next of our words, the verb 'illuminate'.

  • And finally we had a word which means, when we're talking about rules, the same as break, to 'breach'.

  • In experiments, they breached the rules to learn more about them.

  • Well, we don't want to breach any rules so it's time for us to leave you for today.

  • But don't worry we will be back.

  • In the meantime, you can find us in all the usual places online and on social media, just look for BBC Learning English.

  • Bye for now.

  • Bye-bye!

Hello, and welcome to "6 Minute English".

Subtitles and vocabulary

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B1 UK social awkward govern implicit illuminate rule

Why do we feel awkward? - 6 Minute English

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    Annie Huang posted on 2020/02/27
Video vocabulary