Listen: To boost your mood, talk to a stranger

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Talking with strangers may be good for our well-being, Nicholas Epley argues.

“People out in their daily lives aren’t social enough for their own well-being,” says Epley, a professor at the Booth School of Business at the University of Chicago. “They don’t engage in conversations with strangers, for instance, nearly as much as they ought to to maximize their own well-being.”

Epley’s research has focused on the ways our minds understand, or fail to understand, each other. Now, he’s expanded that research to look into why talking to strangers may be the key to better well-being, even if it’s difficult.

“Turns out that people like talking to strangers quite a bit but because they think they’re not going to enjoy it very well, they don’t they don’t do it very often,” says Epley.

“I would say my lab has been consumed over the last few years with this really reliable result that people underestimate how positive others will feel when you reach out to them in a pro-social positive way. And we just find that effect relentlessly⁠—just relentlessly.”

Here, Epley explains his work and how talking to strangers is good for us and why it’s so difficult:

A transcript of the episode is available here.

Source: University of Chicago