Good commuters keep their eyes on their phone and avoid any unnecessary conversation. “Let’s face it, all talkers on trains are freaks”, a new friend told us recently. But is that so, and is it the best strategy for a pleasant commute really to roll ourselves into emotional clingfilm?
Nicholas Epley, a psychologist at University of Chicago, set to figure out and set up an experiment with commuters on the train to Chicago.
Some were instructed to have a conversation with whoever sat next to them, some were told to keep to themselves and enjoy their solitude, and some were told to do whatever they normally do. Afterwards, they mailed in surveys describing their experience. Of the three groups, those in the conversation condition reported the most positive train ride, and those in the solitude condition reported the most negative. Among those who talked, the longer the conversation, the better the ride.
Beating that cringey feeling of chatting up a stranger might be all worth it.