Talking to Strangers Makes You Happy




This is Scientific American 60-Second Mind, I'm Christie Nicholson. Got a minute?
Consider the times you've hopped on a subway, boarded a plane or entered a waiting room.
Chances are, you probably avoided engaging with any fellow commuters or patients.
But contrary to what we might think, we'd actually be happier if we did strike up a conversation with a total stranger.
In a study, commuters in Chicago were asked to either talk with a stranger on a train,
or sit quietly alone, or do whatever they normally do on their commute.
Then, they responded to a survey about how they felt.
And turns out those who engaged with strangers had the most pleasurable experience and those who remained solitary had the least enjoyable experience.
These answers were then compared with another group that did not participate but instead had to predict how they might feel in each situation.
In this group thought talking with strangers would be the least enjoyable, by far.
The study is in the journal of Experimental Psychology.
So despite being social animals and enjoying social engagement, we avoid chatting with strangers. Why?
Well, according to a follow up study it's because we think, wrongly, that strangers don't want to talk with us.
The one way to get over this is to practice reaching out, who knows, commuting could become a lot more enjoyable.
Thanks for the minute, for Scientific American 60-Second Mind. I'm Christie Nicholson.