How do we feel about small talk? Health and science

Where does this news come from?

An article by Het Nieuwsblad dated 17 April states that when A.A small talk Goes with vague acquaintances, we easily Blame it on the low quality of the call To ourselves or our failing communication skills (1). Researchers have found that people are relatively pessimistic about their conversational skills. So they attribute the bad points of the conversation more to themselves than to the other partner.

in Three small studies US researchers investigated participants’ feelings during weekday or informal conversations (2).

In the first study, about a hundred participants received a presentation with twenty social activities. For each activity, participants scored how they compared to other individuals. The score went from 1 (= I’m worse) to 100 (= I’m better). Study two conducted a similar test, but on thirteen daily activities, and study three on the quality of daily conversations.

Of all the tests that were performed, it was Scores lowest in informal conversations. This means that the participants rated themselves lower than the average person on this characteristic.

American researchers concluded that people rate their ability to conduct informal conversation much lower than other human activities. In additional research, participants found lower quality of informal conversations Especially to know yourselfAnd not to the other partner.


1. Do you feel bad after an awkward small talk? Not necessary, says science. Het Nieuwsblad 17 April 2023.

How do you explain this news?

Human behaviors are complex And psychological studies as well. This study is a simulation study, in other words, not about how people really react to certain situations, but how they think they react to those situations.

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Study groups were limited to one group hundred participants We do not know how the participants were selected or not actor were to the population. The latter is very important: if such a study were conducted with 100 wealthy participants, for example, it would be difficult to make decisions for the entire population.

The last question is of course: contribute to this study To better understand human behavior and/or address human health problems? The answer here, too, is dubious: supposed guilt about the quality of casual conversation is not a revolution in knowledge.

Before proceeding with causal determinations, it seems appropriate to do so Repeat the study on different participants by independent research institutions.


US researchers conducted three simulation studies on the participants. They were presented with different situations and had to answer on a scale of 1 to 100 whether they were better or worse than other people. It was lowest for informal conversations, with participants attributing the low quality of conversation to themselves. People generally rate their small speaking skills as low. The impact of such an outcome on mental health remains a question mark.


2. Welker C, Walker G, Boothby E, et al. Pessimistic assessments of ability in informal conversation. J Applied Sock Psy 2023; 1-15.

Megan Vasquez

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