135 Mistakenly Seeking Solitude

Based on research by Epley, N., and Schroeder, J. (2014), written by Mara Rowcliffe, BS.

When in public, do you generally ignore strangers?  Do you prefer to sit in solitude enjoying your own company?

Although previous research has shown connecting with others increases happiness, many people choose not to talk with strangers.  This is apparent on public transportation, as people often do not speak to each other and avoid eye contact. In a joint research program of Business and Psychology Dr. Nicholas Epley and Juliana Schroeder conducted nine experiments asking over 800 commuters to either commute as normal, talk to a stranger, or sit in solitude. Most predicted that sitting by themselves would produce more happiness than interacting with a stranger. However, participants who connected with a stranger reported enjoying the commute more than persons who did not speak to anyone. Those who were spoken to had equally positive experiences as those instructed to talk. Why did most expect the opposite outcome? They believed that other people would not be interested in interacting. This mistaken idea about the benefits of solitude keeps people from enjoying the positive consequences of social interaction.

Next time you’re riding the bus or taking a train, don’t be afraid to interact with those around you!  Make your trip a positive one!


Epley, N., & Schroeder, J. (2014). Mistakenly seeking solitude. Journal of Experimental Psychology:    General, 143(5), 1980.

Show More
Back to top button