Hello Stranger…Hello Happiness

Behavioral scientists just came up with some fascinating research that can benefit us all.

Most people believe they will be happier if we are just left alone on their commutes. But according to a 2004 study published in Science, commuting is associated with fewer positive emotions than any other common daily activity. So what we are doing isn’t making us very happy.

The behavioral scientists Nicholas Epley and Juliana Schroeder shed some light on why, and what we can do about it.Screen shot 2014-05-14 at 12.01.48 PM

Epley and Schroeder asked some commuters on a train ride in Chicago to predict how they would feel after talking to a stranger; the commuters thought their ride would be more pleasant if they sat on their own.

On the same train they had set up an experiment. One group was asked to talk to the stranger who sat down next to them on the train that morning. Other people were told to follow standard commuter norms, keeping to themselves.

By the end of the train ride, commuters who talked to a stranger reported having a more positive experience than those who had sat in solitude.

Why are these commuters’ predictions and their experiences so at odds? Most people imagined it would be difficult to start a conversation. They estimated that fewer than half of their fellow commuters would want to talk to them. But in fact, not a single person reported having been snubbed. And the conversations were consistently pleasant.”

Researchers then went further, they discovered that “people acted more cheerful around someone they had just met than around their own romantic partner, leaving them happier than they expected.” Epley and Schroeder conclude that interactions with weak ties correlated at least as highly with happiness as interactions with strong ties.

Maybe an easy way to get your work week off to a good start would be to ditch your solo ride in a car, and take the bus, train, or a carpool! Movability can help you find happiness!

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