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.