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Tuesday, 09 March 2010 01:00

Are you unhappy about small talk?

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According to a February 2010 study in the journal Psychological Science, people are happier when they have serious and meaningful conversations rather than simple, trivial talk about the weather, and other such conversations without much substance and content.



U.S. psychologist Matthias Mehl, from the Department of Psychology at the University of Arizona (Tucson) and one of the authors of the study, stated, 'Profound conversations have the potential to make people happier'. [TopNews (3.8.2010): 'People Who Indulge in Meaningful Talks Tend to Be Happier, Study Says']

And, Dr. Mehl, stated in the 3.5.2010 Business Week article 'Can You Talk Your Way to Happy?', that: "Small talk does have a function. For smooth social functioning, we need small talk."

However, he added, "What really connects you to people is substantive, meaningful conversation rather than small talk. It doesn't have to be all about philosophy or the afterlife, it just has to have substance,"

A study, whose results were published in the journal Psychological Science (February 18, 2010, online), analyzed over 23,000 conversations, around 30 seconds in length on average, which totaled about 300 conversations per participant.

The researchers include Matthias R. Mehl, an assistant professor of psychology from the University of Arizona, Tucson; Sonja Lyubomirsky, a professor of psychology from the University of California, Riverside; and James Maddux, a professor of psychology from George Mason University, Fairfax, Virginia.

Page two continues with specifics about the 2010 study in human happiness and conversations.




The psychologists studied 79 college students (both men and women) who had been recording their conversations over a four-day period with an electronically activated recorder (which records 30 seconds of conversations every 12.5 minutes).

The psychological researchers then divided the conversations up as to either a 'serious discussion' or 'trivial chatter.'

Then, the participants of the study, from which the conversations were taken, were given personality and well-being assessment tests.

The researchers found that the happiest people spent about 18% less time being alone than the least happy ones.

The happiest people only spent about 58.7% of the time alone, as opposed to 76.8% for the least happy people.

The happiest people also spent the most time talking, about 16.5% more time than the least happy people.

They spent 39.7% of their time talking, as opposed to 23.2% for the least happy people.

In particular, the happiest people were found to have had double the number of 'serious discussions' than the least happy ones, and only about one-third as many 'trivial chatter' as those least happy.

Page three concludes with a final statement by the authors.




The authors state, '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.' [Scientific American (Feb. 2010): 'Happy People Talk More Seriously']

The authors admit that having many meaningful conservations does not mean you are more likely to be happy than people who chit-chat a lot.

However, they conjecture that happiness may be increased by conversing more about substantial subjects than trivial ones.

Learn more such research in the Happiness Research Website, by Dr. Michael Fordyce, a human happiness researcher. As he says, "Get Happy!"


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