As discussed by scientists, here.

What’s cool about this is that the author took a scientific approach to the problem: she ran an experiment:

During the session coffee breaks, I stood by myself to see if anyone would spontaneously start up a conversation with me.  When people passed by, I would smile or nod, but not initiate a conversation myself.  The first day, no one approached me–despite the obvious fact that I was alone and knew few people there.  Then, on the second day, I gave my presentation (in the plenary session), which was something of a departure from the other talks.  After this, people began approaching me during breaks.

The controversy starts when she begins to generalize about scientists:

A final point is to realize that scientists as a group tend to be more socially inept than other groups.  So the chances that someone else will rescue you from a socially awkward situation is much lower at a gathering of scientists.

I (having studied Physics as an undergraduate) tend to agree with her, but there is a bit of back and forth in the comments, as in: “People say this all the time, but I am aware of absolutely no evidence that it is, indeed, the case.”

Someone else has a neat run-down of the other kinds of people who might be as or more socially inept than scientists: “Chartered accountants. Real estate assets managers. Meat packers. Systems analysts. Industrial laundry workers…”

While I think it’s true that scientists tend to the socially inept to a greater degree than the average person, it’s still a problem when people apply the generalisation in real life (uh, kinda like with any stereotype!). I don’t think I’m the only science person who’s felt a bit prickly when someone who studied, say, English brings out a lazy joke about, I dunno, having to calculate the angles before taking a shot at pool.

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