About the Manual

The Nerd Manual is meant to be both a useful resource for nerds and a guide for the people involved with nerds. If you're a nerd you can find information here that will help you improve your life and perhaps better understand yourself. If you're close friends with, dating, or married to a nerd, I want to give you insight into things nerds do that a lot of people have difficulty understanding.

I hope to avoid offending anyone--either nerd or non-nerd--but please understand that the manual will get into some sensitive topics, stray into contentious territories, and even use stereotypes to illustrate points. It's OK to disagree with something, but keep your comments civil.


The Power of Glasses

via Camera Eye Photography
If you do a Google image search for “nerd” the majority of hits will feature someone wearing glasses, but if you take a look at any large group of nerds you'll notice that, while a lot of them wear glasses, most of them don't (and even fewer if you're at a cosplay convention). On the other hand, if you looked into the eyes of nerds not wearing glasses, you would find that many of them wear contacts. So what gives? Are nerdy glasses a myth?

Not exactly. The four-eyes stereotype has roots in the not too distant past when contact lenses were thick pieces of hard plastic that scratched your retina and laser eye surgery wasn't even a dream, so if you were myopic you wore eyeglasses. But did that make you a nerd? No, but several studies have shown that people with higher IQ and higher levels of education also have poor eyesight*, which means there was a time when that room full of nerds would also mean a lot more glasses. The difference today: most people, even nerds, don't wear glasses because we have comfy contacts that we can sleep in, and laser keratotomy is an outpatient surgery that won't break the bank.

* Cohn, S.J. et al. “Myopia and intelligence: a pleiotropic relationship?.”
Teasdale, T.W. and Fuchs Goldschmidt. “Degree of myopia in relation to intelligence and educational level.”
Czepita, Damian et al. “Are children with myopia more intelligent? A literature review.” 

Still, what is it about bad eyesight that goes hand in hand with nerdiness?

There are people who suggest that since myopia allows people to see small details close up, it leads to mental patterns of inspection and analysis, and possibly intelligence. Other people believe intelligent children spend more time reading or looking closely at things, which causes their myopia.

ElizabethAab offers a more complicated answer, suggesting that poor eyesight influences a person's behavior toward nerdiness in early childhood because it changes her position in the classroom; "your 10 year old self inched closer to the chalkboard. Once there, the teacher called on you more, you asked more questions, you talked less with your neighbors, you doodled less with your crayons…You became a nerd! By the time your vision was corrected your position at the front of the classroom, and in your class, was set. You would always be a nerd."

While I agree with Aab's idea, I believe interaction with the teacher is only a piece of the puzzle. Consider how the other students react to a kid wearing glasses. In 2012, F. C. Jellesma, a professor at the University of Amsterdam, conducted a review* of the effects that eyeglasses had on children's perceptions of people; not only did she discover that children view eyeglass wearers as more intellectual, the children also were less likely to want to be their friends and felt that people wearing glasses were not as good looking.

*Jellesma, F. C. "Do glasses change children's perceptions? Effects of eyeglasses on peer- and self-perception." 

Given this social bias, it's easy to see how the child saddled with glasses will find herself fighting an uphill battle if she wants to make friends among her peers. Often, children will simply accept the roles thrust upon them and seek solace in books and the positive reinforcement offered by their teachers. Once on this path, it's difficult to change direction. Perhaps it's slightly dramatic to suggest that glasses are a talisman imbuing their wearers with gifts of intellect and observation while also branding them as an outcast. But nerds will tell you, it's not much of a stretch.

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