For its many flaws, it’s hard to deny that technology has improved our ability to communicate with one another. We now have a huge range of options when it comes to speaking to our friends and family, whether we’re texting, IMing, or sending them emails.
With such a smorgasbord of choices available to us, it can be easy to forget the humble phone call. And according to new work published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, a reticence to pick up the phone might also be robbing us of stronger connections with those we love.
In their first study, Amit Kumar from the University of Texas at Austin and Nicholas Epley from the University of Chicago looked at the experience of reconnecting with an old friend. Participants were first asked to think of someone they had fallen out of touch with, stating how long it had been since they interacted and rating the current closeness of their relationship.
Participants then imagined reconnecting with their old friend, and were asked whether they would prefer to contact them by phone or email and how they felt the interaction would go. They were then randomly assigned to actually connect with the friend either via email or by phone over the next week.
Even though the majority of participants believed they would form a stronger bond over the phone than via email, 67% stated they would prefer to get in touch by email (a number that rose to 72% among participants who successfully completed the full experiment). This may be because of perceived awkwardness: the majority also felt that a phone call would be more awkward. Of the participants who managed to get in touch with an old friend, those assigned to the phone condition reported feeling a significantly stronger bond than those assigned to the email condition — and in the end felt no more awkward.
The next study looked at new friends. Participants were put into pairs and assigned to one of three groups — text chat, audio chat, or video chat. To get close to their new friend, participants interacted via a “sharing game”, in which both parties ask and answer intimate questions (e.g. “can you describe a time you cried in front of another person?”). Before completing the tasks, participants predicted how well they would get to know their partner, how much they would enjoy the conversation, how strong a bond it would foster, and how awkward it would be to chat. Read more on this topic here.
Credit – Emily Reynolds, (digest.bps.org.uk)