It's Okay to Talk to Strangers

#Culture

Tue, Apr 29th, 2014 11:00 by capnasty NEWS

In fact, it's good for you. On the New York Times' SundayReview, Elizabeth Dunn and Michael Norton look at what it would be like if, instead of ignoring strangers on public transit, we actually made the effort to talk to them. Behavioural scientists determined that talking to strangers actually puts us in a better mood because it forces us to "put on our happy face when we meet them," rather than using the crankier side reserved "for the people we know and love."

The behavioral scientists Nicholas Epley and Juliana Schroeder approached commuters in a Chicago area train station and asked them to break the rules. In return for a $5 Starbucks gift card, these commuters agreed to participate in a simple experiment during their train ride. One group was asked to talk to the stranger who sat down next to them on the train that morning. Other people were told to follow standard commuter norms, keeping to themselves. By the end of the train ride, commuters who talked to a stranger reported having a more positive experience than those who had sat in solitude.

If the idea of talking to a random seatmate fills you with dread, you’re not alone. When Dr. Epley and Ms. Schroeder asked other people in the same train station to predict how they would feel after talking to a stranger, the commuters thought their ride would be more pleasant if they sat on their own.

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