BJKS Podcast

88. Juliana Schroeder: Talking to strangers, undersociality, and replicable field studies

January 05, 2024
88. Juliana Schroeder: Talking to strangers, undersociality, and replicable field studies
BJKS Podcast
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BJKS Podcast
88. Juliana Schroeder: Talking to strangers, undersociality, and replicable field studies
Jan 05, 2024

Juliana Schroder is a professor at the UC Berkeley Haas School of Business. In this conversation, we talk about her research in which she asks people to talk to strangers, and how this experience is usually a lot more pleasant than people expect. We talk about how the research came to be, what they found, how culture and norms affect the results, how to create robust and replicable field studies, and much more.

BJKS Podcast is a podcast about neuroscience, psychology, and anything vaguely related, hosted by Benjamin James Kuper-Smith.

Support the show:

00:00: The origin of Juliana's studies on talking to strangers
02:15: Why don't people talk to strangers (during commutes)?
05:46: What happens when strangers are forced to talk to each other?
08:47: How to start a conversation
13:31: Cultural differences in talking to strangers
31:19: How to create robust and replicable field studies
48:04: What's next for this line of research?
54:14: A book or paper more people should read
55:26: Something Juliana wishes she'd learnt sooner
57:13: Advice for PhD students/postdocs

Podcast links

Juliana's links

Ben's links

Boothby, Cooney, Sandstrom & Clark (2018). The liking gap in conversations: Do people like us more than we think? Psychological Science.
Epley (2015). Mindwise: Why we misunderstand what others think, believe, feel, and want.
Epley, Kardas, Zhao, Atir & Schroeder (2022). Undersociality: Miscalibrated social cognition can inhibit social connection. Trends in Cognitive Sciences.
Epley & Schroeder (2014). Mistakenly seeking solitude. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General.
Kardas, Schroeder & O'Brien (2022). Keep talking: (Mis) understanding the hedonic trajectory of conversation. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.
Roy (1997). The god of small things.
Sandstrom, Boothby & Cooney (2022). Talking to strangers: A week-long intervention reduces psychological barriers to social connection. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology.
Sandstrom & Boothby (2021). Why do people avoid talking to strangers? A mini meta-analysis of predicted fears and actual experiences talking to a stranger. Self and Identity.
Schroeder, Lyons & Epley (2022). Hello, stranger? Pleasant conversations are preceded by concerns about starting one. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General.

Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Juliana Schroder is a professor at the UC Berkeley Haas School of Business. In this conversation, we talk about her research in which she asks people to talk to strangers, and how this experience is usually a lot more pleasant than people expect. We talk about how the research came to be, what they found, how culture and norms affect the results, how to create robust and replicable field studies, and much more.

BJKS Podcast is a podcast about neuroscience, psychology, and anything vaguely related, hosted by Benjamin James Kuper-Smith.

Support the show:

00:00: The origin of Juliana's studies on talking to strangers
02:15: Why don't people talk to strangers (during commutes)?
05:46: What happens when strangers are forced to talk to each other?
08:47: How to start a conversation
13:31: Cultural differences in talking to strangers
31:19: How to create robust and replicable field studies
48:04: What's next for this line of research?
54:14: A book or paper more people should read
55:26: Something Juliana wishes she'd learnt sooner
57:13: Advice for PhD students/postdocs

Podcast links

Juliana's links

Ben's links

Boothby, Cooney, Sandstrom & Clark (2018). The liking gap in conversations: Do people like us more than we think? Psychological Science.
Epley (2015). Mindwise: Why we misunderstand what others think, believe, feel, and want.
Epley, Kardas, Zhao, Atir & Schroeder (2022). Undersociality: Miscalibrated social cognition can inhibit social connection. Trends in Cognitive Sciences.
Epley & Schroeder (2014). Mistakenly seeking solitude. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General.
Kardas, Schroeder & O'Brien (2022). Keep talking: (Mis) understanding the hedonic trajectory of conversation. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.
Roy (1997). The god of small things.
Sandstrom, Boothby & Cooney (2022). Talking to strangers: A week-long intervention reduces psychological barriers to social connection. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology.
Sandstrom & Boothby (2021). Why do people avoid talking to strangers? A mini meta-analysis of predicted fears and actual experiences talking to a stranger. Self and Identity.
Schroeder, Lyons & Epley (2022). Hello, stranger? Pleasant conversations are preceded by concerns about starting one. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General.

[This is an automated transcript that contains many errors]

Benjamin James Kuper-Smith: [00:00:00] Yeah, I guess we might as well just get right into it. I mean, I wanted to talk mainly about your papers where you force strangers to talk to each other during a commute. Uh, how did, how did that start? How did you, how did you and your supervisor come up with the idea to force people to talk to, to talk to people in public transport and do stuff they wouldn't usually do? 

Juliana Schroeder: Yeah, the simple idea was that social connection appears to be beneficial for people's mental health, even for people's physical health across lots of different studies and meta analyses, and, um, you know, that's speaking very, very broadly, but a lot of that work has looked at close relationships and people's felt connection to their family and to their close friends, or on the flip side, their loneliness is sort of negatively with all these different potential indicators. 

Yeah. But we thought, you know, one of the things that's interesting about social connection is that there do seem to be a set of interactions, particularly with people that we don't know, or [00:01:00] people that are very different from us, in which people seem to have a totally different intuition. They think that those will not be beneficial interactions for them, and they often do not choose to opt into them. And so what we notice is that, you know, all these contexts that exist in life in which, you know, you're surrounded by other people, you don't necessarily have many better things to do, the paradigmatic example being on public transportation, you know, you're sitting on a bus for an hour, people are really not doing much with their time, they're often just kind of scrolling mindlessly through their phones, and they could be talking to the people sitting around them, but they choose not to oftentimes. 

And so, that's sort of an interesting context in which perhaps connection would have more value than people realized, and it's led to this whole research program of thinking about all the ways in which have misconceptions around various types of social engagements and. Even just kind of the basic question of like what is [00:02:00] sociality and what counts as being social and all these different forms of social interaction and the noisy feedback and the wicked feedback we get in a lot of these different contexts. And so that's become like a big focus of my research program in the past 10 years. 

Benjamin James Kuper-Smith: I wanted to ask kind of why, you know, why people don't speak to other people in these situations, you know, the very point you raised, uh, I guess you measured it, so what are the, what are the reasons? 

Juliana Schroeder: It does appear that people's predictions are somewhat malleable in the sense that they're moderated by lots of different that we found in our experiments. So for example, people's personality traits can influence their prediction. So introverts tend to have different predictions about how the experience of talking to strangers will go. 

Then extroverts do, and culture appears to be another moderator. So there are certain situations, certain contexts, certain cultures in which people expect that the interactions with strangers will go better than in other ones, and even we've even [00:03:00] found, and we have published this work that the. aspect of the experience that people focus on seems to affect their predictions. So in particular, if they're thinking about trying to start the conversation with a stranger, that seems to be a potential activity that people think will be less than pleasant because we think they're often thinking about others not being willing to talk to them. Um, whereas if they think about conditional on successfully having a conversation with you, Ben, Then I think sometimes people's intuition is different that that actually the conversation will be nice and it'll go well and it'll actually be pleasant. 

So it seems like a lot of the concern comes from the very beginning of the conversation. The challenge was starting the conversation, other people not wanting to talk, not wanting to engage. In a lot of my work, I focus on this, like, psychological mechanism of people tend to overestimate the riskiness of social interactions. 

And so what does that mean? What's the riskiness? And here, when we're thinking about talking to strangers, you can think about lots of different elements of risk, but one in [00:04:00] particular that people, that comes to mind, I think, quickly for people is thinking about social rejection, like the other person just, you know, looking away, like, you know, putting in their headphones, like really trying to avoid you. And the kind of pain of, of having the awkwardness, I think, of just having to do that and having to be in that situation. so that seems to be one that sort of is very salient in this particular context. Um, so I think that's, yeah, I think that's sort of the big reason as to why we found in a lot of our research people don't want to have this interactions. 

They that other people don't want to interact with them. They think strangers won't talk with them. 

Benjamin James Kuper-Smith: Yeah, I mean, to me, it always seemed like there was a difference between people not wanting to talk to you and people just feeling obliged to do so, and you just being a massive pain to someone who, you know, is just going along with it to be polite and yeah, but I guess, 

Juliana Schroeder: all nuances that you could think of, right? It could be that, you know, maybe the person is willing to talk to you, but secretly they don't want to like, that's, I feel like, Ben, that's actually another layer that perhaps people are also [00:05:00] concerned a little bit about. Um, so there are other, you know, things that people have raised concerns about, but I think they're a little bit more anecdotal, a little bit less of the average psychology. 

So, for example, some people talk about worrying about how the conversation will end. Like not being able to get out of the conversation. So maybe the other person would be willing to talk to me and they do somewhat want to, but then what if they like it so much that I can't get out of the conversation and I'm stuck, you know, that, that kind of concern comes up sometimes in like longer, like rides and the plane you're going to be next to someone for the next 12 hours. But again, I think, you know, those, those are anecdotal comments that sometimes come up from our participants or from other researchers when we talk about the research, but they don't seem to be as much of the average psychology. I think the average psychology is more about the start of the conversation. 

Benjamin James Kuper-Smith: I mean, so in a sense, you know, the fact that this is a, is a research study worth talking about probably means that people didn't then hate the conversation and weren't rejected all the time. 

Juliana Schroeder: Yeah, we, we very consistently, very robustly have found that, you know, [00:06:00] when you ask people to have these conversations, assuming that you can get, you know, a high enough percentage of them to say yes, which we can talk about the kind of attrition challenges of running these types of studies, that people report that they have a pleasant experience. More typically more pleasant than they expected, although that does depend on a couple of different factors compared to sitting in solitude or doing what they would normally do, which is often sitting in solitude and we've looked at, you know, several different situations. Now, we've looked at different types of public transportation. 

Buses, trains, cab rides, we've, you know, anecdotally tried to do some stuff on planes, but none of that work has actually been published, uh, waiting rooms, we've created waiting rooms and laboratories, we have gone into waiting rooms, like in, uh, A student care center work actually hasn't been published either yet. 

I mean, there have been lots of things we've attempted to do that. I'm happy to tell you about that that never ended up being published, but we've looked [00:07:00] at lots of different types of situations. We've done this in the Chicago area, which is where I did my PhD. We've done it in the Berkeley area, which is where I am a professor. 

Now we've done it in London. Um, but I think, you know, we would and there have been some independent replications, um, that we know about, um, for example, from Jillian Stranstrom, um, Erika Boothby, uh, Liz Dunn has a student who did an entire thesis on this, Iris Loki, although that one wasn't published. And so it has been tested across several different contexts now, although. I think, you know, one of the challenges of this line of work, it's, you know, it's hard to run the experiments and it's hard to do them well, which I know is on your list that you wanted to talk about. And so I don't think there have been as many independent replications across as many contexts as we would like. Um, and this really does feel like work that needs to be done cross culturally. Um, because I do think different cultures might have different. Um, show different effects. Although I believe that the effect of the actual experience talking versus not [00:08:00] talking, connecting to a stranger versus not connecting will be robust. Um, across lots of different contexts and cultures, so that I would predict. 

Benjamin James Kuper-Smith: Yeah, as you said, I mean, I'll have a few questions about how to make this good science, uh, later. Um, 

Juliana Schroeder: Yeah, I was anticipating because I know it's on your list, so I'm happy to talk more about that. Yeah, it's, it's challenging because this is not, this is noisier data, the field data that has, um, kind of selection kind of challenges in lots of different ways. But we've done everything we can to try to make it as robust and replicable and transparent. 

You know, I'm happy to talk with you kind of about the open science movement and how we've tried to make our, our. All of our data and our methods as transparent and replicable as possible 

Benjamin James Kuper-Smith: yeah, first I had a brief question. You mentioned, you know, most people have difficulties or think they'll have difficulties with the beginning of a conversation. Did you actually ask them? Like, how did, like, how did people start conversations in these different contexts? 

Juliana Schroeder: at first, we were just running the [00:09:00] experiments and we, we did collect a little bit of information about the conversations and the surveys. And so in early iterations of this, these are like, hard copy surveys that people are filling out. And so they're like, handwriting in like, on lines, you know, about what happened in the conversation and then. Later versions, we have the online surveys and so they're typing a little bit to tell us about the conversations, but you know, we weren't structuring that free response very much. We were just letting people tell us what they wanted about the topic and about their conversation partner. Although we do usually collect some information about the conversation partner, like their demographics, so we can look at demographic matches. 

But, uh, later on we realized that some of the psychology of why people seem to be making the misprediction about how the experience is. Transcripts provided by Transcription Outsourcing, LLC. You know, how do they start the conversations or people actually, you know, is it, could it be that people are, some of them are feeling very nervous and they're even saying, you know, I have to talk to you. 

I'm in an experiment, [00:10:00] people are doing that in order to start the conversation, which seems like it would be kind of weird. And so we actually went back to all of the participants that we had ever collected, that we'd ever run through the paradigm, and we contacted them again. We got permission from our IRB to do this, and we contacted them again, and we said, you know, thank you so much for being in this study, and we wanted to follow up, and we had a question for you, and we asked them about the start of the conversation. 

Like, how did the conversation start? Did it feel difficult? And what did you, how did you start it? What was the way in which you started it? Now, out of everyone we contacted, about 50 percent responded. So, you know, we did have a lot of attrition on that particular, uh, we didn't offer them any particular, like, financial incentive to respond or anything. 

So I think it's kind of nice that we even got that many responses. and I'll say that out of the 50 percent that responded, you know, 0 percent of them said they started the conversation by saying that they were in an experiment. that was not something that people reported doing out of the set that responded to us. were two [00:11:00] primary ways in which they started the conversation. So the first way was talking about something that was a innocuous common interest, often was like the weather. It's like, so Chicago, it's like often it was something about the weather. Um, It might be something about, you know, hey, we're both going downtown, you know, are you, it might be a news story. 

I wasn't usually politics, but it might be some sort of like innocuous news story. And then the 2nd way that was, and this was, I think it was like, as common or possibly even a little more common was, um, flattery, but so saying that they like something about, oh, I love your shoes. Where'd you get those or something? 

So those were the 2 ways in which people tended to start those conversations. Transcribed And I think it's, it is funny to me, like, so much of this research I find, like, just interesting and entertaining because that people are so concerned about how to start a conversation given that, like, this is something we do have a lot of experience doing in our lives. 

Like, we've started a lot of conversations in our lives, and perhaps [00:12:00] maybe not as many with people that are just complete strangers, but You know, still, I think most humans know the ways to start a conversation. And now that I've told you about the ways that people do it, it's not surprising, right? Like that's sort of what would come to mind if you, if you were faced with this yourself. We did an experiment at some point in which we gave people icebreakers. So just as a reminder, here are some ways in which you could start a conversation. We just gave them the kind of same ones I did, like you could flatter them. And that did make people feel a little more comfortable and made it more likely for them to start the conversation. 

As compared to just the control condition in which we just ask them to talk. also tried a version where we gave people ice breakers. I know, sorry. Ice makers was the other version in which, uh, we would say, okay, you might be concerned about ending the conversation. Here are some ways in which you could end a conversation. And so we just gave people some ideas for how to make ice, uh, in that sense. And, uh, that wasn't quite as helpful as the ice [00:13:00] breakers as you know, our, our theory would predict. that's other data that's unpublished that we just collected at some point for fun. But I thought I would just share it with 

Benjamin James Kuper-Smith: Yeah, when you, when you said ice makers, I thought you, those were going to be ice breakers that were really bad, like they were not going to work. 

Juliana Schroeder: Oh, no, no, we didn't, we didn't want to do that. We didn't want to make it harder for them. We're trying to find ways to make it easier, right? To kind of, alleviate their concerns. 

Benjamin James Kuper-Smith: it's very kind. 

Juliana Schroeder: I think Icebreaker didn't really catch on, but then again, that study was never published, so you never know. 

Benjamin James Kuper-Smith: Um, I mean, you already talked a little bit about different cultures and countries and associated norms and that kind of stuff. Um, yeah, just a brief question. Why exactly, more or less replicate the initial study from, from Chicago in London? A few years later. 

Juliana Schroeder: Yeah, that's a great question. So, you know, I'm, I'm proud of that original paper, but any paper from like almost 10 years ago is not, is going to have challenges withstanding the test [00:14:00] of time in terms of very under, it's embarrassingly underpowered when I look at it now, you know, we're talking about like about 30 participants per condition is what we kind of ended up with the, the attrition rates, which I'm happy to kind of talk through the different levels of attrition or, You know, not optimal, which some of, you know, you might be concerned about some of that being those hard copy surveys. 

And so we were like, we would love to just do another, you know, a high powered, you know, with a lot of a larger sample size, you know, kind of a pre registered kind of more like up to all of the kind of modern standards. Also, just conceptually replicated in a different context because those studies were all done in the Chicago area. 

We've always wanted to make sure that this would apply across broader set of context and situations. And so the BBC actually approached us because they had read the original paper and they were. They were running, um, [00:15:00] some different, programs in which they were trying to improve, uh, social connection among UK citizens in different ways. 

And so this was part of, they're actually having like, I forget what it was called, I think a conversation day. And so they were encouraging conversation across the UK. on that day, and they wanted to do it, they wanted to encourage it in the commuter trains. And so they found this paper and so they approached us to say, you know, would you want to run an experiment while we're trying to promote this? And we thought that was just a great opportunity to, like, I said, kind of update the original research and make sure that it would conceptually replicate in a different context. and we also made some, you know, what we thought at the time or minor edits to the paradigm, you know, so, for example, in the original studies, we had 1 set of participants be the predictors and another set of participants be the actual experiencers. And so, in the 2021 paper, we ended up having. Uh, the same participants [00:16:00] making predictions and then having the actual experiences. Um, so that was a change to the paradigm and then we also, um, changed the way that we described the predictions a little bit, which ended up being meaningfully different. I think that ended up having a theoretical difference in the way that people were thinking about those predictions in a way that we were able to learn from, which was nice. But yeah, those were the primary. So it was sort of convenience like that they came to us, but also and gave us access to all the commuter trains in the London area. Um, and then also, uh, just the fact that we've been wanting to do an update version of it for like a long time. Anyway, 

Benjamin James Kuper-Smith: Okay. Yeah, that's, uh, I had a question about like, how exactly do you start a collaboration with the BBC? But I guess that's a fairly easy way to, to go to my just, 

Juliana Schroeder: right. They came to us. That was nice. 

Benjamin James Kuper-Smith: you know, um, and I was also curious, like, why London? It was seemed like such an art, like, you know, from, from where you've lived and where you've worked. And I was like, it seems like such an arbitrary choice, but. I mean, it's great because it's a different country and [00:17:00] for me as, I mean, never been to the U. 

S., but I guess the stereotype is probably that Americans are a bit more friendly than English people. 

Juliana Schroeder: Yeah, right. So, I mean, one thing that I think, you know, in terms of trying to test this and more conservative environments, like environments in which people don't have the intuition that this would work, like London is was kind of appealing because, you know, there is stereotype data out there that Londoners tend to be a little more curmudgeonly than Americans. 

Transcribed Uh, and also, you know, whenever, you know, anecdotally, we talk to people that talk about, like, it is not a British thing to do to talk to strangers, you know, that is seen as very inappropriate. So it did seem like a more Conservative content like there are other we actually have kind of a running list of geographic areas that we would love to test this in New York is often high on the list because a lot of people say like, oh, this would never work in New York, you know, New York, if you talk to a stranger, it's just going to go badly. And so we really would like we'd love we'd love to test it in all the context that people have the intuition where it wouldn't work because I [00:18:00] think. Um, you know, our hypothesis, our standing hypothesis is that you would still find, you know, pleasant conversations across, even in these situations where people have the intuition, it wouldn't work. So I think we were happy just to be in that location, uh, given that it seemed like a bit more of a conservative test. 

Benjamin James Kuper-Smith: Yeah. And I mean, I, I lived in London for four years, so I can def, I think I'm rarely as short tempered as when going through the tube and tourists standing in the way. There's definitely a kind of, uh, You behave slightly differently there than I might otherwise. But yeah, I mean, it's actually right because in North England, I think people are a lot more friendly than in London. 

Um, I mean, maybe also to, to slightly clarify here, I mean, you, uh, maybe you can comment on why these, why these four locations in particular, because when you say London, it's, it's only one of them is actually in London. Three of them are cities outside of London, uh, Cambridge, Chelmsford and Colchester, which are, you know, I mean. 

Quite a bit outside. We're not talking a little bit. It's like an hour or something outside. Yeah, roughly 

Juliana Schroeder: Yeah, the BBC selected [00:19:00] like the commuter trains that they thought would be the most populated, would be the best ones to run. So that's, that's how we ended up selecting those 

Benjamin James Kuper-Smith: Okay, because I've actually lived in Corchester for like two months and I was it's not a like it's not a huge train station So like it's I wondered whether that made a difference like when you imagine someone at Waterloo doing this experiment or someone in Corchester I think it's like four platforms something like that I wondered I guess you probably didn't have enough like proper data on like difference, you know How how how anonymous and all this kind of stuff the place is? 

Juliana Schroeder: That's interesting. Yeah, I don't, I don't think we would have the ability to be able to Yeah. Differentiate between the size of the, given that we weren't at that many stations. And, um, yeah, that's, that's an interesting question because I'm actually not exactly sure. What are the characteristics by which the BBC selected the different stations? 

I, I assume size was one of them, but you're making me think that like convenience might have just been one of the factors. yeah, so it's, you know, it's that's actually a very interesting in terms of thinking about stimuli selection, right? Well, [00:20:00] how do we end up at those particular four stations? I'm not actually exactly sure. 

Benjamin James Kuper-Smith: Yeah, it also means that it's not Londoners necessarily who are actually taking part, it's people from outside who are moving into London. So then, I mean, I don't think this is necessarily a huge, uh, problem, but it, it, it, for example, saying like, oh, you're going to London, what are you, you know, that's very different than if you're both just in London on the Piccadilly line. 

And like, you know, it kind of, to some extent, I think changes maybe a little bit the sense of. Not community, that would be a bit strong, but I guess you just have nothing in common with the people in London. Uh, they could be doing a million different things, whereas if you're in Colchester and you're going to London, you're probably going there for work. 

Juliana Schroeder: Yeah, and then it's interesting to think about how much it matters if you have a lot in common with the other person, right? In a way, I think it matters a lot for your Willingness to engage with them in the first place, like, we know that homophily and similarity, you know, are major predictors of whether people choose to engage and whether they end up becoming close ties and whether they form a [00:21:00] relationship. Um, it probably also matters a bit for the start of the conversation, like, how are you going to start without having something that you can connect on? Um, but I, I wonder if, you know, and this is something that I think could be tested, uh, and, and there's at least one paper that I think speaks to it. you have less in common, the conversation, you learn a lot more, and the conversation is a lot more interesting in some ways. 

And so perhaps, you know, Even though having things in common might be important for the beginning of the conversation, maybe it ends up being less of a predictor of the sort of success and the pleasantness and the most, the interestingness of the conversation. If anything, you can almost imagine it going in the opposite direction, that the less you have in common, the more interesting the conversations are. So I think it would be interesting to test. 

Benjamin James Kuper-Smith: Yeah, and I think one of the I mean, I think I mean, yeah, we'll get again to like the more of the method stuff in a few minutes, but There's also just so many factors that interact with each other here. For example, if you're in the middle of London [00:22:00] then And anonymity is so high, you're never going to see that person again. 

Whereas, you know, you said like, if you have a long distance where you say you're on a plane or something. Well, if you're on the platform during your commute to work, it's a solid chance the other people will be there the next day also. So like, you know, there's also the sense of like, Oh, am I going to be stuck with this person now for the rest of my life? 

Do I have to change my commute now? Because this person's going to annoy me. Um. 

Juliana Schroeder: Uh huh, but on the other side, to state the positive view of it, right, like, wow, it's like you've now connected with them and you see them over and over again, it's like now you have a community, like you have a neighborhood, like you're, you're developing kind of a, a longer term connection, uh, if you will, so that could be a good thing. 

So if it goes well, like, that could be great. 

Benjamin James Kuper-Smith: Yeah, I guess it's high risk, uh, both rewards and punishments. 

Juliana Schroeder: high reward. 

Benjamin James Kuper-Smith: Yeah. I mean, it's funny when you mentioned different places that you should try it. I mean, for me, the most obvious one is from, I mean, from the places I lived in would be Sweden. Stockholm, because basically I remember I was there for only [00:23:00] like half a year and I was like, Oh, I want to learn some Swedish, but most of the people in the lab were not Swedish. 

So I asked some of the people like, should I like just talk to random people and like, you know, try and learn some Swedish and they're like, people are probably gonna think you're mentally insane if you talk to a stranger in Sweden, like don't do that. But the funny thing is what I noticed is I think just because I was foreign. 

It was, it suddenly changed everything, right? Because now I'm, it's like, oh, this person doesn't know the norms, or I don't know what it was exactly. Um, people were very friendly to me, but, yeah. I mean, I really like stuff when I think, because no one ever talks to you, but when they talk, people were super friendly. 

Juliana Schroeder: Ben, I'm going to add Sweden to our list. Like I said, we have a running list and I will put it on there. I that suggestion. I also think, you know, you brought up the norm violation piece, which I think is an important piece of this. And I think it's important in lots of ways. So one, I think, you know, We have to grapple with the fact that this is sort of a, it is a norm violation in some of these contexts to talk. 

In fact, there [00:24:00] are commuter trains that are labeled like quiet cars. it's an explicit violation of their, like, they say that you are not supposed to be talking on them. And so, you know, that's an even stronger kind of norm violation. And we know from other research that people don't like norm violators. 

And so I think there's almost like a barrier to get over there. I also think that one of the mechanisms. You know, I think this is a multiply determined phenomenon as to why people are concerned about starting these conversations is has to do with pluralistic ignorance, which is that, you know, when you see other people not talking, infer that that it reflects their attitudes in some way. 

They don't want to talk to you in fact, it could be due to the norms and or other things. Right. And so. I think norms are become a barrier for people understanding what others true attitudes are in a way that prevents them. That's cyclical and prevents them from wanting to ever talk. I also think that violating a norm creates another psychological barrier. 

Just even the perception of [00:25:00] having to do that is another barrier that prevents people from talking just directly. And then I finally think that, you know, I think these I think in the cases where it's like very innocuous norm violations. Um, I don't think that affects the actual experiences much. Um, but you could imagine that if it's enough of a norm, but, you know, you're in the quiet car, everyone is sleeping and then someone loudly starts talking that that would actually lead to sort of a bad actual experience. 

Right? So, you know, I think maybe some of these, I also mentioned briefly that we tried to run a, um, a study in the student care center, like making people talk in waiting rooms, they're going because they're sick, usually, and so that was a site we didn't, we couldn't ever get enough people to talk, there was like too much attrition happening, and eventually I was sort of like, you know what, this might not be the right con, like this, it's so bad to like, People are there because they're sick and like trying to talk. 

It's just not a good, it's really not a good context for this. So I, I do think that is worth kind of thinking through carefully, like in terms of the research more [00:26:00] broadly and adds noise to everything as well. 

Benjamin James Kuper-Smith: Yeah, I just wanted to say, when you, when you, the, the, the reasons for why you violate a norm, I think are really, I mean, I think they make such a huge difference, because in some sense, then it almost doesn't become a norm violation. Maybe that's, for example, the reason why people were very happy to, in Sweden, when I asked for directions to tell you where you are. 

And I also remember I once, like again, in the tube, I mean, late at night on a Friday or Saturday evening, maybe things change a little bit, but generally speaking, no one talks to strangers in the London tube. But I remember once there was this, it's just like the middle of the day. And there was this, this guy who just had like a map, I think actually sort of physical map in his hand and was looking confused. 

And he. Just looked around to like three or four people was pretty empty sitting there and just said like Paddington and we were like, oh, mate. Right train, wrong direction. And, um, the funny thing is, like, I think he was Spanish, but there was an Italian guy sitting next to him, and, like, uh, like, it was, like, very, like, stereotypically multicultural, no one spoke the same language, [00:27:00] almost. 

Um, and people tried to help him, because then no one minded, because obviously this was a guy who was trying to get somewhere, and he was just a bit confused, got along the right line, wrong direction, and, you know, this was, this wasn't a norm violation, really. Even though you don't really speak on the tube to strangers. 

Juliana Schroeder: Yeah. So I think one, right. Like to your point, if you have a really good reason as to why you're, you're talking like I'm lost, please help me out. Like I think people will take pity on that. But another, I think is. More broadly about like the good intention. Like this person is, you know, they're well intentioned. 

They're friendly. They're trying to brighten my day, like almost that sense. And it's interesting. We wrote a whole theory paper around this concept that we call like under sociality. And the idea is that there are lots of different times in which people not to be social or maybe not social enough for their own well being, even though they could. That's why we call it under social, so it's [00:28:00] like suggest it's a little provocative. But the idea would be that Arab people are kind of not social enough for their own well being in lots of different ways, and the psychology behind that is similar. One of, like, one of the, we proposed, like, a couple different psychologies around why undersociality exists, and one of them is that the people who are thinking about initiating the social or the pro social interaction are often really focused on the competence dimension, which is, like, how will others, like, are, am I going to be able to be articulate enough as I'm talking that the other person, am I going to be able to kind of get that conversation going? 

Am I going to be able to ask like the right questions? If I'm thinking about being pro social, like showing gratitude or giving a compliment, like, is it going to land exactly right? Like, am I going to be able to, and so they get really caught up in kind of the nuance of like the core, more of the competence dimension. And then what we think is more happening on the recipient side is that they don't really sit there and judge the competent, like, how well did you start that conversation? They more just like appreciate [00:29:00] the. Kind gesture, like, it's like, okay, that was a nice gesture. And so there maybe focus a little bit more on like the warmth dimension. Um, so they're thinking, oh, that was that was kind of nice, you know, and they're not taking, you know, they're not sitting there and like, analyzing the competency of the initiator in a way that the initiator seems to think that will happen. Um, so that's another sort of psychology that we think might be going on. 

And that one of the things that that suggests is like, all of these effects probably are predicated on it. The actual good intent of the initiator. So, like, I think that, and I think that's probably true in most social and pro social interactions that the, the initiator has some kind of, like, good intent. 

Like, they're trying to kind of create a connection. They're trying, they're not trying to be to create harm. Right? And we're actually starting to study, um, social engagement that has more of these, like, potential anti social dimensions. So, like, we look at gossip, for example. I think gossip is really fascinating because it's, Yeah. It's intended, the gossiper is often intending to be pro social towards the recipient. Like [00:30:00] give you, if I were to gossip with you about someone else, I'm trying to like give you some information that you might find, you know, entertaining or like salacious or um, just useful. And so there's that kind of probe. 

But then, of course, it's often seen as anti social toward the target, right? So, like, they're being harmed. I'm talking about them behind their back on a negative way. And so what we find in, in terms of gossip, and we have a paper that's going to go under review soon here, is, is quite different in the sense that We actually find gossipers tending to overestimate the extent to which recipients will appreciate their gossip and also think highly of them and think of them as being high status, because although their intent is like, good for the recipient, it's, it's sort of seen as antisocial for the target. 

And so recipients kind of see that as distasteful in a way that gossipers don't always realize. a context where it seems like we're getting a pretty different result. And I think again, it comes down to the intention that in a lot of these, you know, social contexts, you know, the recipient [00:31:00] just, Oh, this person is like, they're trying to be nice. 

They have this good intent. They're being friendly. And so they just appreciate, they generally just appreciate that in a way that the initiator doesn't always expect. Um, but in a case where you're doing this as having a social interaction that could be antisocial or seen as antisocial, then you might see a different set of results. 

Benjamin James Kuper-Smith: Mm hmm. Yeah, as I mentioned earlier, I want to ask a few little questions about how to make this kind of science robust and replicable and that kind of stuff. And maybe this is also, I guess, to some extent, a conceptual question, a little bit about the, what the results exactly mean. One kind of question I had was, whilst reading the paper, was like, if people don't like starting conversation with strangers. 

Then having done so is then overcoming a challenge and having done something that maybe they were a bit afraid of, but they did it and it worked out. So how, how much is this effect attributable to the actual social interaction and not just someone going out of their way to do something that they know they kind of should do and that kind of stuff.[00:32:00]  

Juliana Schroeder: Yeah, so I mentioned we have, um, done a couple more, like, controlled experiments where we created waiting rooms in laboratories. So it's, you know, you have participants come into a laboratory to do studies, and then they would often do multiple studies, and in between studies, You know, lo and behold, they're waiting, when they're in the waiting room, someone else comes in, and now there's two of them, and they could talk, or they could not talk, and so what's nice about those types of, not only because we have, you know, A hundred percent response rates, and so it's more controlled and everything, but also that, you know, what you have is, um, you have both the person who has been instructed, so you could give one of them instructions. 

So maybe the person who's sitting in there originally gets the instructions that they're told, you know, someone's going to come in and talk to them, or they're told, you know, just keep to yourself, you know. Read your magazine or whatever, or they're told just do what, you know, they're not told anything so you could have one person that gets these different set of instructions and then you could have the other person coming in and they're the one who's being acted upon innocuously, right? 

So, like, a little bit more kind of [00:33:00] like what the real life experience would be. And so. What's nice, there is that you can then survey both of them about what that experience was like. And so you get both the people that were that were instructed to talk and the people that were talked to. And, um, you know, early on, we were concerned about this, that, you know, perhaps. The people that were being instructed to talk, like you said, they feel like, oh, I successfully talked. I did a great job. Like, what a great experience for me. And then the poor person being talked to is like having a bad, you know, they're like, what the heck? Like, why did this person approach me? Like, I actually am not having a good experience, but we just never could capture like their. We have, we can't give them, we have tried versions where it's like, give the person you talk to a survey, but that's just, you know, that's too much noise. We don't get good enough, you know, response rates on those things. So that just doesn't, and it's awkward as well. Um, so we could just never get really the perspective of the person being talked to consistently in the field. Settings, in these lab settings, you definitely can get that. So the nice, you know, and we've run a couple of different versions of these lab experiments. And [00:34:00] 1 of them was published in the original paper. It's the final experiment in the 2014 paper and the finding that we kind of consistently get is that the person who's instructed to talk reports having a more pleasant experience. Talking compared to being instructed to sit in solitude or are getting no instructions, but also the other person, the person who has gotten no instructions at all, they report just as pleasant of an experience being talked to as compared to sitting in silence with the other person. And so it does seem like, you know, and it's just as it's just as positive. 

So it does seem like it's not just about being instructed to talk that's leading to the pleasantness of the experience with something more about the act of talking. So to me, those data are kind of reassuring to address your question. 

Benjamin James Kuper-Smith: Uh, one question that I'm particularly interested in is to what extent. Is this effect? I mean, basically, did you differentiate positive emotions from negative emotions? Or is it one scale? [00:35:00] Basically, are people, do they actually feel happier afterwards? Or do they feel less miserable? There's maybe a different way of putting it. 

Juliana Schroeder: Yeah. So we had, you know, three items that we typically ask. So one is about pleasantness compared to normal. So these were on people's commute. So we could say compared to your normal commute, know, was this more pleasant or less pleasant? So positive three, you know, on Likert scale, positive three is the most, you know, more pleasant zero is it's just the same as usual. Compared to negative three and people usually are above the midpoint when they're talking to someone. I think it's, you know, something that they don't often do. And so it feels a little bit different from normal. And so they're, they're more on that positive side than on the negative side. We also will ask about like just kind of simple emotions, like how happy do you feel? You know, zero to six scale. And then how sad do you feel? So separate items. So, you know, we've got the positive and the negative affect. However, I don't remember. Yeah, so I, you know, they [00:36:00] obviously do tend to negatively correlate, but we almost always, you know, reverse score the sadness and just combine it with the happiness. 

So I'd have to look back at the data to see kind of the differentiation there. 

Benjamin James Kuper-Smith: Yeah, and I mean, maybe that's also just a very cynical view that everyone's miserable, and then it takes them out of the bed a little bit. But I was kind of curious whether 

Juliana Schroeder: you know, in terms of, like, personality traits. So, like, I mentioned that introversion is one of the dimensions that affects people's predictions about social experiences quite a bit, but it does not consistently moderate their actual experiences we've seen in any of the experiments that we've run. But, um, there is another personality dimension that does seem to moderate the actual experiences and that dimension is neuroticism. So thinking about the big five, so this is another one. Yeah, so neuroticism is interesting in the sense that people that are in solitude and you're highly neurotic are very miserable. 

They just report being very low on all of our [00:37:00] scales. Uh, and so for them, this is why it made me think of, you know, your question prompted this, but for them, it's almost like they need the social interaction to bring them back up to baseline, like just to kind of like even them out. So that might be like the one set of like, so highly neurotic people, perhaps that kind of fits with your intuition. 

It's like talking is making them less miserable. But I don't know that that's the case for other people. 

Benjamin James Kuper-Smith: Okay. Uh, I mean, you already mentioned earlier, one of the big kind of questions is who takes part in these kinds of studies? What's the attrition rate? Who maybe does it, but then doesn't actually follow through. Yeah. Can you comment a little bit about how you, yeah. How, how do you get representative participants? 

I guess is the main question who to actually take part. 

Juliana Schroeder: So I think that's Yeah, so that's that's like the million dollar question in this line of work, which is like, we're really trying to make sure that we I think we can draw conclusions that are generalizable and that, you know, actually do apply to people, even the types of people that maybe wouldn't stop in the experiment. 

So, you know, question number 1 is like, [00:38:00] how do we get people to enroll in the experiment? And I think, you know, 1 thing that we do, so there's a couple of things we try to do. So. One thing we try to do is come up with incentives that are just gonna be very appealing. So we give like 5 Starbucks gift cards out, you know, that just like are appealing to everyone that we think. So that's like we're trying to get, you know, kind of the broadest set that be willing to stop. The other, the biggest predictor in a lot of our experiments of willingness to stop and be enrolled in the experiment was like how Close was the timing to when the train would leave. Right. So like, for example, we would just stop even trying to recruit when we get within five minutes of the train leaving, because people just were too nervous and they didn't get the entire protocol and stuff. 

So, you know, I mean, that might be sort of one, you know, maybe the people that are like chronically late are just not getting enrolled into this experiment. Um, and then another, uh, thing we do is we don't tell them that it's like about. You know, talking to strangers because we don't want people to like enroll based on whether they want to talk to a stranger. 

[00:39:00] Like that is really not ideal at all. So we really want to try to get again, like sort of a, a relatively random set of people enrolling. And so we, what we would do is we'd say, Hey, this is a study in which you might have to do something on the train. we promise it'll be, you know, something that won't affect your commute. 

We're not going to ask you to change where you get off or anything. And, you know, afterwards you're going to complete a survey. Right. And so, and you'll get this 5 gift card. And, uh, and if people say, okay, like, you know, I'm, what is it? Like before you find out what it is, you have to sign these consent forms promising. That you're going to do it and that you're going to complete the survey. And so we have them actually sign like a bunch of consent form. Like we really, you know, try it. It's like, you know, you draw blood to make sure that like they would, they'll stay in it. Um, we get there, we get their contact information. 

Like we just need your email address. Like so that, um, and so like once, you know, once people have stopped, they're, they're usually pretty much in it. Like they don't, it's very rare for someone to, to [00:40:00] leave at that point. Um, but if they do leave, that would be the moment they leave. So it's like consent form number three, it's like, okay. You know, maybe they leave, right? But that's okay because they haven't gotten the experimental condition, know, instructions yet. We keep track of that. So there are some people that kind of leave at that point, but it's better for them to leave then. Like, so we basically put barriers up front so we can get people to leave before we give them the experimental condition instructions. All right, then, you know, those people that have signed all those consent forms, now they're ready. They're up, they're ready to do the thing we tell them to do. And so for some of them, they're just predictors. So it's, oh, it actually turns out you don't have to do anything. You just fill out the survey predicting what it would be like. For some of them, they're now the experiencers. And so we're like, okay, here's the thing you, you have to do. And we read them these instructions. And so, Um, now there is like, you know, it's possible to have some attrition at that point, but that point we really don't want there to be attrition because that's where you could get differential attrition by condition. 

And so that's where, you know, you really. So people, you know, indicate concern. There's a, [00:41:00] you know, a very detailed script. It's all posted up on OSF. And, you know, if people indicate a concern, it's like, just give it a try for the purpose of the experiment. Like, you know, we go, there's a, you know, and we do that. 

It's supposed to be the same for any, any condition. So if they're concerned about being in solitude, like we would do the same thing. Although, of course, that one doesn't come up as much. And so then, you know, it's like, okay, do your best. We send them off. Okay. And then you could still, so people might still, you know, so it's possible there's some, some people might trade out them, but for the most part, we really keep people in the experiment at that point. And then, uh, they go off and do it. And then, of course, they could not follow our instructions, right? And so there, well, there's two different things. So one, they could not complete the survey at all. Uh, which is problematic because, so we need a high response rate on the survey. If they don't complete the survey at all, we have, we don't know what they, we have no idea what they did. We don't know what their experience was. They just, we just basically lose them. And then if they even, they could complete the survey, but then tell us that they didn't follow the instructions. [00:42:00] Or they partially followed them or something. Right. And so we do have, you know, and so those are all different levels of what you can get attrition and selection, right? 

That that could be problematic. And so, you know, and there are a couple kind of key points that we're looking for. So one is, you know, making sure that there's not differential attrition by condition in terms of people just leaving the experiment as soon as they hear the experimental condition instructions. 

Another is the rates of following instructions and another is the rate of returning the surveys and each of those. Okay. Particularly a concern by experimental condition, and I will say that so what we find is that, you know, for example, survey response rates are above 90 percent which is kind of where we want them to be, and it's not usually differential by condition in terms of the survey response rate. 

So that's good as well. But in terms of following instructions, yeah, usually we will have the most people that are unable to follow the instructions in the connection condition compared to the solitude and control conditions. In the control conditioning, you know, it's like, obviously anything they do counts. 

[00:43:00] So like that one is just, we're going to call that a hundred percent. The solitude, you know, every once in a while we do have someone who's like, Oh, I got a phone call or someone asked me something. And so that, you know, that's possible that, but the connection condition. So there'd always be some, you know, small set of participants who would say something like I really tried, but, you know, no one sat next to me or someone had their headphones in and I was scared. 

And so they're just, you know, didn't do it. And so then you have to try to run robustness analysis, kind of usually pulled across experiments of like, well, you know, You know, what would it be like if they had had the conversation? It was a bad experience. You know, our results actually robust to that. so you can try to do different robustness around analysis to try to account for that. 

But, you know, as you can see, like, it is, you know, you have to be so careful and kind of thinking through kind of every single layer of selection and. And, you know, in any experiment, so you talked about in your lab experiments, that they're nice and clean and they're controlled, but you, you have selection in terms of like, who's coming in to do the lab experience. 

So like that first piece, I [00:44:00] think. You know, we just don't grapple with enough as a science, probably, like there is always going to be selection in terms of the people that we're, you know, even like now we, of course, we run lots of online experiments. We're doing lots of these prolific and MTARC pools and, you know, there's like serious selection in terms of the types of people who are on those pools. 

Like, that is something that I think all of us could probably think more about as scientists. it's, you know, it's almost in a way it's nice because it's so salient in this context that we're like really thinking through it and we can write a lot about it and we can, it does, but it does leave a little kind of question mark in terms of interpreting results, which is why I think just having more independent replications with large sample sizes, you know, the more the better in terms of making sure that this is actually robust and generalizable. 

Benjamin James Kuper-Smith: Yeah. I mean, maybe as a kind of fairly general question. Doing these like field studies, uh, where you have, I mean, as you said, some problems are the same in the lab, even though we're maybe not, we kind of forget about them a bit more. Um, but is there anything else [00:45:00] that you kind of really have to do in this kind of research that like basically anything that you haven't mentioned ways that you try and improve the study that you might not do in a lab experiment? 

Or just, I'm just kind of curious, kind of what, what the process is of making those studies as good as possible. 

Juliana Schroeder: Yeah, I would say, like, really careful oversight of research assistants and even, like, even having a single point person that has, like, continuity across different research assistants running it and making sure that research assistants are in the analysis as well, so you can do robustness, you know, so that you can test to see if there are any effects or moderators of the assistant, you know, so, for example, another, Yeah. field experiment that I ran that I didn't have as much oversight on. Imagine that you're getting participants, you know, coming up to a table that's out at a gym and you're assigning them. They're, they're supposed to be pre assigned to conditions. [00:46:00] The randomization is incredibly important, right? 

And, um, you can think of all the ways in which randomization can go wrong here, right? So one research assistant runs one of them in one condition, and then. Another one comes up and they actually run them in the same condition, right? They think they're, they're both running participant number eight, right? 

And then maybe you're changing the log sheet or so like all sorts of things can happen, uh, in terms of like, you don't have the control and you could also things like participants, like choosing which condition they want to be in, like terrible stuff like that, which now you don't have randomization at all. And so I just think I would. it's really important to think through the stuff that you take for grant. Like when we are running Qualtrics surveys on prolific, we take randomization for granted because like, it is all done through Qualtrics and you can even block it and check the box that says even distribution, right. 

And you can do complex things. And like, when you were running a field experiment in this type of context, where you're like actually physically [00:47:00] running people through manually through conditions, like you need to be like. Really careful about that you have true randomization and that nothing has gone wrong and nothing has been changed and thinking through every aspect of the selection. 

And those are just things that you need to be incredibly careful about. And so I would even say, like, something that sounds simple, and I see people present this all the time. It's like, oh, two conditions. And we went outside a food truck and we were like, running people through these two conditions. It's like, I have a lot of questions. Like, that sounds simple, but here are my questions. Because, like, as someone who's run it, I know that it is not easy. And I would say, like, in the paper, I want to see those things answered, like, I want there to be an appendix where it's like, here's what we, here's the attrition at every point, and like, here's how we handled it, and you can think about these attrition funnels that help you to, you know, so that that's the sort of thing I want to see, like, as a reviewer and as someone who's, like, consuming the research, um, and I would also encourage others, like, when they're, they're hearing some sort of sounds like, oh, simple field data, uh, It's like, please think about that carefully if [00:48:00] you think it's randomization, because so many things can go wrong. 

Benjamin James Kuper-Smith: You've mentioned all the lists of places where you may or may not want to do this study. Uh, kind of, uh, what's kind of the most interesting questions next? I'm assuming you, or do you want to continue this kind of line of research? And if so, kind of what, what's the next thing you want to do? 

Juliana Schroeder: Yeah, Ben, I feel like we had so much fun just talking about talking to strangers that we didn't discuss, like, sort of the broader line of research on social connection, but I think about You know, I basically think about sociality as being a spectrum and anytime that you are choosing to engage with someone, you're, you're thinking about all different aspects of the, you know, how deep should we go? 

Are we going to talk about, you know, more shallow things like sort of small talk? How long do we talk about small talk? When do we switch topics? Sort of the nature of the conversation. How long do we talk? I have a paper on the, The Donnick trajectory of conversations in which we have an experiment that suggests that people may end conversations too early for their, you know, they could [00:49:00] have kept going. 

It would have been interesting if they kept going, but instead people choose to end that maybe because they're worried about the conversation running dry, you know, so I have some some data on that. I guess I'm, I'm very interested in all of the ways in which people think about their social life in a way that can be sort of like maladaptive even for them. 

So this undersociality phenomenon, you know, why, why do people get things wrong? Like, what's the psychology of that? You know, are there ways in which we can improve our social lives? And I think it's very timely right now with the loneliness epidemic. And, uh, I think it's just fascinating, like some of the data that's coming out that suggests that, you know, older adults, of course, are very lonely. 

A lot of them are having like no interaction with people. But another group that's very lonely, they're showing up as like, being just as lonely by a lot of the indicators are like young adults, like 18 to 25 year olds, they're really, really lonely. And that's weird, because you know, they have opportunities, right? 

Like they are, Most of [00:50:00] them are are, you know, they are, like, very much embedded in these networks. And so what's going on there? What's happening? Like, what's the psychology of what's going wrong? And so I'm, I'm very interested in all of those questions. And I'm also very interested in conversation in general. 

Um, so I think. You know, I guess maybe there's a theme in my research of like, when things go wrong, why is that and how can people like have more productive and engaging social lives? And so conversation, once you start studying conversation, that's another domain where it's like, it's amazing that people ever have a conversation that goes well, because like, there's so many ways in which miscommunication and misunderstanding can happen in a conversation. And so we're, I'm hoping actually to one day write like a theory paper around, this is like a, it almost feels like a pipe dream because I'm so busy that every time I like try to start writing a theory paper, it's like, how would I possibly have time for that? But I, it should be possible, like lots of people do this, so I [00:51:00] am like hoping, uh, that one day it'll happen. The idea would be to think about, like, all the ways in which, um, the pipeline of a conversation, things sort of drop through the crowd, like, from one mind to another mind, we think about, like, both the translation problem and the coordination problem, but, you know, translation is like, how do I get the thing in my mind into your mind, right? 

And all the ways in which that will go wrong. And then the coordination problem is like how do I read you as the conversation's going on in such a way that we're both having a good time and that's very hard because you're not very incentivized Ben to like give me your honest reactions like you're often you know there's politeness norms there's like so you're not being like totally honest and so like it's hard for me to really figure out what it is that's going on in your mind and this is all just one on one conversation I'm not even going to get into group conversation because I think Group conversation is terrifying and, like, hard and performative and, like, I wouldn't even, I actually think that, you know, I'd love to do some research on this, that a social interaction becomes [00:52:00] less social when you've got a group context, like, I don't think, if you define social as, like, forming a kind of reciprocated connection a person, then I think you kind of lose a lot of that in a lot of group contexts and things become a lot more performative. But yeah, that's the, that's the type of thing I am hoping to do in the future, and that's what I'm excited about right 

Benjamin James Kuper-Smith: Okay, that's pretty cool. Yeah, especially the, the difference between one on one and group settings to me is It's everything basically. I mean, I rarely like group interactions and I wonder whether it's because of some of the reasons you mentioned whilst I'm very happy talking one on one, but I always feel like as soon as there's, as soon as there's three people in total, then it becomes this like, not exactly, I wouldn't have called it in my case, performative, but I. 

When you said that, I was like, yeah, I, yeah, I know what you mean. It's, it's, it just completely changes everything. 

Juliana Schroeder: know, you're trying to talk with two people, you're trying to read them at the same time, it's even harder, and what you're really doing is you're kind of putting on a performance for [00:53:00] both of them, and you're kind of like aggregating across them. Right. I think about when I teach, you know, it's very social, I suppose, but it's also not like, it's like more like me just pointing out a performance for like a large set of students and I, you know, sometimes in my line of research with even with the title of under sociality, like people take away this, like, oh, I guess I should be more social. And yeah, like I think in some contexts, but then be careful about what you think social means. Like, does that mean go to more parties? No, like parties are like actually a context where it's very sometimes hard, I think, to form like a reciprocal connection. It's like, wow, there's a lot of people and, you know, or does that mean I should be on social media? No, social media is like a misnomer, right? Like speaking of like the psychology of technology. Um, you know, it's very hard to kind of form like a one on one connection and a lot of social media platforms that are not well set up, not well designed for that function. Um, so I, you know, I think kind of coming back, coming all the way back around. 

So, like, where we started, it's like, well, what is social even mean? I think people sometimes get that [00:54:00] wrong. That's interesting to study. 

Benjamin James Kuper-Smith: Yeah. Uh, yeah. There's lots of things we could talk about, but you have to leave. You have to leave soon. So like, yeah. Uh, so I'll just finish with, uh, with my three recurring questions. Um, what's a book or paper more people should read. 

Juliana Schroeder: um, I will mention Nick Epley's book Mind Wise, which outlines a lot of this research and was kind of the impetus for some of this research. I think that's a good one. He's actually working on another book now called Hello. So that will also be, that'll be even more focused on the social connection, uh, piece. And then I'll also say that I really love reading fiction books. And I think that there's a lot of good psychology in a lot of fiction books. By telling it in a different way, it's like telling it through a story, but actually, you know, have an agent that I've been working with and I'm, I'm always pitching them ideas. 

I'm like, what if I combine fiction and science and they're like, Juliana, that's not going to [00:55:00] work. So they're, you know, obviously I've made no progress whatsoever on that project. But, like, I'll also name a fiction book, like, um, one of the ones I love, The God of Small Things, R. and Dottie Roy. that's a really amazing book. 

There, there are tons of, like, great fiction books, but, like, it's just one of the ones that's coming to mind right now. A lot of psychology in that book, for sure. 

Benjamin James Kuper-Smith: Okay, great. I'll put that in the show notes with all the other stuff we talked about. Uh, second question, something you wish you'd learned sooner. This can be from work, from private, whatever you want, just something that you think would have maybe improved your life if you'd learned it a little sooner. 

Juliana Schroeder: Honestly, I think I was late to the open science movement. Yeah, which is interesting, you know, I, um, I think that thing we didn't talk about, but we could have talked about, is where kind of the field of science is in terms of, um, having robust and replicable and trustworthy results. And I, I don't love where it is. [00:56:00] Right now, and it's something that I've been sort of slow to, you know, because I, and I think there's a real like denial problem where it's like, oh, you know, this can't fraud can't be happening. And, uh, even just, you know, well, meeting people that are just interpreting results, you know, sort of hacking, right in order to get the thing that they want. And I think. of having faced that finally and being at Berkeley has helped me kind of face that and Some of the things that have been happening lately in science have helped me to face that I wish I wish it was something I was more aware of earlier and had thought through more carefully earlier and I think it's, you know, I like even and I'm doing this now. 

I'm doing the exercise now of going back to all my older work and like matching it up with raw data and posting things that I wouldn't have thought, you know, I was posting sort of clean data for a while. And now I'm like, Oh, time to post the raw data. But those are things I just, I do wish that I learned earlier in my [00:57:00] career. 

So, Ben, you are way ahead of me. You're already like, very in the movement and your PhD. But yeah, I'll say that one. 

Benjamin James Kuper-Smith: Okay. Uh, yeah. If you want to learn more, lots of episodes on this podcast, the way you can learn all about it. 

Juliana Schroeder: I love it. 

Benjamin James Kuper-Smith: Uh, final question, um, yeah, advice for people who kind of reflect me on the border between PhD and doing a postdoc, uh, anything you'd, you'd tell us? 

Juliana Schroeder: I kind of think that academia is a labor of love. Like, you have to love what you're doing. You have to be like, every day you wake up and you're like, I'm so glad that I get to do research today, and like, I get to learn interesting things, and I like It's the thing that drives you. And if you, if you don't intrinsically feel that way, like I'm excited every day, then I would, like, I tell people like, maybe this isn't the right career. like, and I've supported my students and going into industry and things like that. So, you know, just, I would kind of like do these self checks like that, because it's not easy. It's not an easy career. It's kind [00:58:00] of, it's, it's tough. It's competitive, it's. painful when people aren't doing good science and you want to like die, you know, and so you got to love it. 

You got to really love it. So I would just sort of do some self reflection. That's what I would say. 

Benjamin James Kuper-Smith: self reflection is the most painful thing, but okay. 

Juliana Schroeder: Right. Yeah, do you love it so much that you're willing to put up with like bad science and other terrible stuff that's going to happen in this pool? 

Benjamin James Kuper-Smith: Okay, well with that, uh, thank you very much. 

Juliana Schroeder: Well, that was like a sad 

Benjamin James Kuper-Smith: Yeah, 

Juliana Schroeder: to end on. 

Benjamin James Kuper-Smith: well, I mean, you could also say that, you know, you really enjoy your work, that's also it. 

Juliana Schroeder: I did. Yes, I do love it. Right. Like I just like I What I'm doing, and there are parts of it I don't love, and that's the other thing, like, is that it's a very, like, broad career, where there's, like, you know, you have to teach, you have to, most people, not everyone, but, like, most people teach, most [00:59:00] people, um, you know, in terms of the research process, there are things they really love and things they maybe don't love as much, and so, for example, for me, I love, like, finding out answers, like, I'm, like, if I, like, I want to run the experiment and find out myself, and then once I found out, I'm, like, okay, I'm done, And then, so then I think for it's like, oh you have to write a paper that other people, that's kind of where I start to get a little bored. 

I mean I actually, I found things I like. I enjoy writing like the first paper, but of course like when you're in like revision number 30, it's like a little hard to stay. But everyone has the things that they love and the things that they don't love. I know the things that I love and so I try to focus mostly on that. know, I can teach. Luckily, I like teaching as well. So that works out well for me, you know, kind of find your path and like something that another thing that, you know, you'll grapple with eventually is like tenure, although I'm not sure if it's exactly the same, but you know, this kind of thing where they can't fire you easily. And, uh, it's, it is interesting how that. That starts to change your [01:00:00] job a little bit and like kind of gets you to focus more on like, you know, what are the things that so someone once said, like, this career is kind of front loaded. Like, you get like a lot of feedback early on. terms of, you know, maybe from colleagues and like you get like, you know, at least you're getting new vowels and you're, but then later on, like, kind of after attending yourself, you get like very late, it's like, who's even looking anymore? Like, no one is evaluating you. And so you, it's a little bit like you start a flounder and people go in really different directions, which is like, some people like become deans, like they're not even doing research anymore. Like some people like are mostly just teachers, Lots of people don't really do research anymore, which is crazy because you spend so much time as a junior person, like, doing research. so it's actually like a fight to stay research active because there are so many other paths. It's like, I find myself, like, thinking a lot, like, what brings me joy? Like, what are the parts that I And, and how do I fight to make sure I, I stay [01:01:00] in that, you know, and get the most out of it in a space where it's like kind of amorphous and you're not getting like evaluated very much. It's kind of like a, such a weird career in so many ways, honestly. 

Benjamin James Kuper-Smith: Yeah, yeah, uh, any, How do you get through the 30th draft or something? I'm asking because that's exactly what I'm doing right now. 

Juliana Schroeder: I mean, honestly, like, at that point for me, it's just self control. Like, I, like, force myself to do it, and, like, if I didn't have, like, I don't, I don't have great self control, but, like, I have enough to get through it. Like, you have to just persist. I've, I've been, like, there's some scientists, I won't name them, that are, like, close collaborators, that it's, like, they're, what, one of the things that amazes me the most about them is just, like, their persistence. Like that they just will persist until it's like a normal person would have given up like so long ago and yet you like kept going for years [01:02:00] and so you kind of have to be impressed by that like our field very much rewards that like I think persistence is almost like the number one predictor of like what ends up in journals and we even more so than like quality in some ways like which is kind of problematic but 

Benjamin James Kuper-Smith: Yeah. 

Juliana Schroeder: all 

Benjamin James Kuper-Smith: it to a bad ending again, so thank you very much. 

Juliana Schroeder: right perfect you

The origin of Juliana's studies on talking to strangers
Why don't people talk to strangers (during commutes)?
What happens when strangers are forced to talk to each other?
How to start a conversation
Cultural differences in talking to strangers
How to create robust and replicable field studies
What's next for this line of research?
A book or paper more people should read
Something Juliana wishes she'd learnt sooner
Advice for PhD students/postdocs