The following is excerpted from an online article posted by StudyFinds.
Countless people look to their smartphones for approval and happiness, but researchers from the University of Georgia find that people would be better off talking to someone in person instead. Study authors report that when people were asked to either scroll on their phones, sit quietly by themselves, or have a conversation with a stranger, participants usually believed talking was the most enjoyable.
“When people are out in the real world, they have these options,” says lead author and doctoral student Christina Leckfor in a university release. “We were interested in getting a sense of how people compare their options, both in terms of how they expect to feel and then how they actually feel after doing these things.”
“We thought people might underestimate how much they would enjoy talking to a stranger and overestimate how much they would enjoy using their smartphones,” Leckfor continues. “But that’s not what we found. Across our studies, people were actually more accurate in predicting how they would feel than we thought they’d be.”
When study participants were given three options (use a smartphone, sit alone, or talk to a stranger), the conversation held the highest positive emotional value. Using a smartphone ranked second, and sitting alone came in third.
Adding more options shuffled up the results even further. After providing volunteers with specific smartphone tasks (watching videos, scrolling social media, or texting) besides just talking or sitting quietly, participants reported they would enjoy watching videos the most, followed by talking to a stranger, using social media, and then texting. Sitting alone once again ranked last.
A major difference, according to Leckfor, stemmed from the emotions associated with these tasks. While people admitted they would prefer using their smartphone in some capacity, they saw a higher mood boost after talking to a stranger.
“It surprised us that even though participants reported an improved mood after talking to a stranger, they still ranked texting above talking to a stranger,” Leckfor adds. “This could mean that people don’t always recognize the potential benefits of a conversation, or they’re not prioritizing that information. It also shows that just experiencing something as enjoyable isn’t always enough to get us to want to do it.”
The study was published in The Journal of Social Psychology.