Surprise! Conversations with others in person improved mood more than using a smartphone, study says

17:39 18.09.2023 - New York Post

Talking to another person, even if that person is a stranger, boosts people's mood more than engaging in screen time or spending time sitting quietly alone, a new study found.

Researchers from the University of Georgia's Franklin College of Arts and Sciences also discovered that even if a chat with others boosted people's mood more, they had originally assumed they'd get more enjoyment out of scrolling on their phones.

Doctoral student and lead author Christina Leckfor said, "When people are out in the real world, they have these options," according to UGA Today, a news site at the University of Georgia.

"We were interested in getting a sense of how people compare their options - both in terms of how they expect to feel and then how they actually feel after doing these things," she also said, according to the site.

To understand those perceptions, researchers separated study participants into four groups.

Two groups predicted how they would feel about different actions - and two groups completed the assigned actions.

All groups then ranked the options from most to least enjoyable to rate how likely they were to experience a corresponding positive or negative emotion.

Said Leckfor, "We thought people might underestimate how much they would enjoy talking to a stranger and overestimate how much they would enjoy using their smartphones," according to a release on the site.

"Conversations with others increased positive emotions by about five points."

"But that's not what we found. Across our studies, people were actually more accurate in predicting how they would feel than we thought they'd be."

When given three options - using a smartphone, sitting alone or talking to a stranger - the conversation with the other person held the "highest positive emotional value" in both groups.

Using a smartphone came in second - while sitting alone came in third.

But when given specific smartphone tasks such as watching videos, scrolling through social media or texting, in addition to talking to others or sitting quietly, participants said they would enjoy watching videos the most.

Sitting alone once again ranked last.

"This could mean that people don't always recognize the potential benefits of a conversation, or they're not prioritizing that information."

From an average baseline of 52.2 out of 100, conversations with others increased positive emotions by about five points to 57.68.

By comparison, watching videos gave a 2.4-point bump to 54.62 - while texting resulted in a drop to 47.56.

Said Leckfor, "It surprised us that even though participants reported an improved mood after talking to a stranger, they still ranked texting above talking to a stranger."

She added, "This could mean that people don't always recognize the potential benefits of a conversation, or they're not prioritizing that information," according to the UGA site.

"It also shows that just experiencing something as enjoyable isn't always enough to get us to want to do it," she also said.

The study was published in the Journal of Social Psychology.

The results highlight the importance of giving some thought to the intention behind picking up a smartphone before doing so, the researchers said.

Leckfor concluded, "In the real world, we're not always consciously making these comparisons, even if you have all of these choices."

However, she said, "this study taps into the idea that maybe we are better at understanding how we feel about different activities if we take the time to give them conscious thought."

/ Monday, September 18, 2023, 5:39 PM /

themes:  Georgia

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