409/2019 Neha Bose and Daniel Sgroi
Humans routinely chat with each other about many things like the news, weather or sports. In important decision-making settings, informal communication of this sort (so-called “small talk”) has been largely dismissed by social scientists as wasteful and strategically empty. We provide new evidence that this is far from true: after a 4- minute conversation, subjects developed a sense of the personality of others which in a pre-registered RCT resulted in significantly different behaviour in future interactions. They contributed more in public good games and found it more difficult to out-guess opponents they felt were like themselves. We explain this behaviour, and using textanalysis, measure the direct impact of differences in language: for example, talking more made subjects seem more pro-social, engendering pro-social behaviour in others.
Behavioural Economics and Wellbeing