Dr. Kristina A. Wald and colleagues examined peoples’ interest in discussing important – but potentially divisive – topics. They also studied how interest is guided by expectations of how positively the conversation will unfold.

Three experiments were conducted with 200-400 participants each. Experiment one tested people’s interest in conversations, experiment two tested participants’ expectations regarding disagreement in conversations, and experiment three tested “the power of social forces” and the underestimation of common ground.

Key findings include:

–People may be especially uninterested in talking with a stranger who disagrees with them on politically divisive topics at least in part because they expect the experience will be relatively negative.
–People tend to underestimate how positive they will feel talking with a stranger.
    –This gap between expectation and reality is especially large regarding conversations where parties disagree.
–Participants believed their level of agreement would determine how similar they felt to the other person in the conversation. 
    –Their actual experience of similarity was affected by how they interacted with their partner.

Read the original study here.


Kristina A. Wald, Ph.D., University of Pennsylvania

Michael Kardas, Ph.D., Oklahoma State University

Nicholas Epley, Ph.D., University of Chicago

Heidy Modarelli handles Growth & Marketing for IPR. She has previously written for Entrepreneur, TechCrunch, The Next Web, and VentureBeat.
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