Talking to a stranger boosts your mood more than screen time or sitting quietly on your own, according to a new study.
Researchers from the University of Georgia discovered that even if a chat boosted their mood more, people thought that they would get more pleasure scrolling on their phone.
Sitting alone consistently comes to the bottom of things that might boost your mood.
Doctoral student and lead author Christina Leckfor said: “When people are out in the real world, they have these options.
“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.”
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 options from most to least enjoyable using a 0 to 100 scale to rate how likely they were to experience a positive or negative emotion from a task.
Leckfor said: “We thought people might underestimate how much they would enjoy talking to a stranger and overestimate how much they would enjoy using their smartphones.
“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—use a smartphone, sit alone or talk to a stranger—the conversation held the highest positive emotional value in both groups.
Using a smartphone was second, and sitting alone was third.
However, when given specific smartphone tasks such as watching videos, scrolling social media or texting in addition to talking or sitting quietly, participants said they would enjoy watching videos the most.
This was followed by talking to a stranger, using social media and then texting. Sitting alone once again came last.
From an average baseline of 52.2 out of 100, conversations increased positive emotions by about five points to 57.68.
In comparison, watching videos gave a 2.4-point bump to 54.62, and texting resulted in a drop to 47.56.
Leckfor commented: “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.
“This could mean that people don’t always recognize the potential benefits of a conversation, or they’re not prioritizing that information.
“It also shows that just experiencing something as enjoyable isn’t always enough to get us to want to do it.”
The study, published in the Journal of Social Psychology, concludes that the results highlight the importance of giving it some thought before just picking up a smartphone.
Leckfor concluded: “In the real world, we’re not always consciously making these comparisons, even if you have all of these choices.
“But 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.”
Produced in association with SWNS Talker