People who engage in more deep conversations are likely to be happier than those indulging in small talk, new research has found.
Psychological scientists Matthias R. Mehl, Shannon E. Holleran, and C. Shelby Clark from the University of Arizona, along with Simine Vazire of Washington University in St. Louis examined whether happy and unhappy people had different types of conversations.
For the study, participants were asked to wear an unobtrusive recording device called the Electronically Activated Recorder (EAR) over four days. This device periodically records snippets of sounds as participants go about their lives. For this experiment, the EAR sampled 30 seconds of sounds every 12.5 minutes yielding a total of more than 20,000 recordings. The scientists then listened to the recordings and identified the conversations as trivial small talk or substantive discussions. Also, the volunteers completed personality and well-being assessments.
The analysis of the recordings revealed some very interesting findings. Greater well-being was associated with spending less time alone and more time talking to others: The happiest participants spent 25 percent less time alone and 70 percent more time talking than the unhappiest participants. Furthermore, the happiest participants had twice as many substantive conversations and one third as much small talk as the unhappiest participants.
The researchers conclude that deep conversations may have the potential to make people happier.
They say: "Just as self-disclosure can instill a sense of intimacy in a relationship, deep conversations may instill a sense of meaning in the interaction partners."
The findings of the study have appeared in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.