The case for talking to strangers

Plus, one simple thing we all want.

“It was like magic. I started craving trips to the gym to find out what happened next.” – Katy Milkman, Behavioral Scientist at The Wharton School

BRAIN WAVES

  • Into the Unknown. As kids, we were taught never to talk to strangers. As adults, there may be benefits to doing so. Researchers Paul A. M. Van Lange and Simon Columbus sought to answer the question: Why Is Social Contact, Even With Strangers, So Important to Well-Being? The psychologists identified three reasons we need social contact with strangers. First, “strangers are far less likely to spread private information because they are unlikely to be part of one’s social network.” Second, strangers can offer new and interesting perspectives. And third, the researchers added, “compared with interactions with family or close friends, interactions with strangers may have the benefit of being more likely to provide opportunities, such as suggestions or advice regarding job opportunities, a chance to learn broader skills, or a starting point for beneficial exchange or extension of one’s social network.” Especially after a year of social isolation, talking to strangers can be refreshing.

  • Reassure me! If only we could feel completely confident all the time. But as The School of Life reminds us, everybody longs for reassurance — it’s human nature. “We can count on one thing about anyone we meet: they’ll be beset by a sense of insecurity and, beneath some excellent camouflage, to a greater or lesser extent, of desperation,” says narrator Alain de Botton. “We are all longing for someone to say something soothing to us.” Our brains are simply not good at holding onto reassurance, so we constantly crave it. Reassurance is a gift — a little kindness toward others can make a bigger difference than you might think.

  • Being able to see what’s happening around us can help us make smart decisions. But knowledge — especially knowledge of how others perceive us — can also hold us back, mire us in needless worry, and keep us from achieving our potential. Listen to learn more.

ON THE PODCAST

July 5: You probably made some resolutions this year. Did you decide to read more? Work out more often? Quit smoking? If you’re like most people, you probably abandoned those resolutions by February. Change is hard. In this week’s episode, we talk with behavioral scientist Katy Milkman about how we can use the mind to combat the limitations of the mind. 

July 12: Annie Duke was often the only woman at the poker table, which influenced the way people saw her, and the way she saw herself. Feeling like an outsider can come at a cost, but also can be an advantage. This week, how stereotypes influence our behavior, for better or worse.

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MIND GAMES

A 3-letter word has been taken out of each of the following words. Can you figure out the word?

RA_ _ _G

_ _ _DER

S_ _ _G

MU_ _ _Y

LAST WEEK’S PUZZLE

The Answer:  28. The 6th child is directly opposite the 20th child.

Since 20 - 6 = 14, there are 14 children in half the circle. Thus, there are a total of 28 children in the full circle.

FROM THE TWITTERATI…

A MOMENT OF JOY

Wildlife photography is beautiful, majestic and – occasionally – hilarious. Kudos to the winners of the 2020 Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards.

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