Family and Caregiver Schizophrenia Discussion Forum

Psychology Today - Why You Should Talk to Strangers


Research finds surprising benefits from connecting with new people.
Published on November 19, 2014 by Art Markman, Ph.D. in Ulterior Motives

I fly a lot. I have a typical routine on the plane. I pull out something to read or perhaps an iPad to watch a movie. I do my work. I don’t generally engage in much conversation with the person sitting next to me, though sometimes I end up in a long conversation, and invariably, the conversation is great fun.
An interesting question is whether my travel would be more enjoyable if I engaged in more conversations with people I met on the plane? This issue was addressed in a fascinating paper by Nick Epley and Juliana Schroeder that appeared in the October, 2014 issue of the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General.

In two field experiments, they demonstrated that people generally avoid having conversations with strangers while commuting. One study queried train commuters; a second, bus commuters. During their commute, some participants were asked to imagine that they were told to have a conversation with another commuter they didn’t already know. Those in a second group were asked to imagine that they were told to commute without talking to anyone. A third group got no instructions. Participants rated how much they thought they would enjoy their commute as well as how productive they thought they would be.


Very culture bound study. There are parts of the world where NOT having a conversation with the person next to you is considered deeply weird.