Today has been the second day of the MAPP´s so-called immersion week. Angela Duckworth is teaching research methods and statistics, which frankly speaking will never be my favorite subject – but that´s o.k. To learn more about the methodology of psychological research and to get an idea of how research papers are crafted, we skimmed through some articles in the classroom. I´d like to share one of those with you; it was published by Matthias Mehl and some colleagues.
Now the thing is: I am German and there is this stereotype of Germans as being rather uptight, not exactly unfriendly, but – you know – a little stiff, just not that easy to talk to. We´re the so-called “nation of poets and thinkers”, but just not very good at small-talk. Which…
…tadahhh – might explain why we´re also a rather happy nation on average!
What Matthias Mehl does as a researcher: he hooks up people with tiny recording devices that switch on automatically at certain intervals over the day. As a result, he gets these little samples of our everyday behavior, especially what we say to other people and what they say to us, respectively. Here´s what he´s found out: People that spend a lot of time in the company of other people are considerably happier on average than folks who mostly like to spend time on their own. There´s nothing new here. But: it also matters to a great extent what you talk about.
There is a considerable negative correlation between life satisfaction and small talk; and a considerable positive correlation between meaningful (“deep”) conversations and life satisfaction. Talking about shallow topics too often may be not all that beneficial to our psychological well-being. This, in turn, reminded me of that little story which is commonly attributed to Socrates – but presumably is a universal parable.
The three sieves of Socrates