Happy People Talk More, and With More Substance

Happy people tend to talk more than unhappy people, but when they do, it tends to be less small talk and more substance, a new study finds.

A group of psychologists from the University of Arizona and Washington University in St. Louis set out to find whether happy and unhappy people differ in the types of conversations they tend to have.

For their study, volunteers wore an unobtrusive recording device called the Electronically Activated Recorder (EAR) over four days. The device periodically records snippets of sounds as participants go about their lives.

For this experiment, the EAR sampled 30 seconds of sounds every 12.5 minutes yielding a total of more than 20,000 recordings.

Researchers then listened to the recordings and identified the conversations as trivial small talk or substantive discussions. In addition, the volunteers completed personality and well-being assessments.

Here's what the researchers found:

  • The happiest participants spent 25 percent less time alone and 70 percent more time talking than the unhappiest participants.
  • The happiest participants also had twice as many substantive conversations and one-third as much small talk as the unhappiest participants.

The findings, to be detailed in an upcoming issue of the journal Psychological Science, suggest that happy lives are social and conversationally deep, rather than solitary and superficial.

The researchers think that deep conversations may have the potential to make people happier, though the findings from this study don't identify cause-and-effect between the two.

Live Science Staff
For the science geek in everyone, Live Science offers a fascinating window into the natural and technological world, delivering comprehensive and compelling news and analysis on everything from dinosaur discoveries, archaeological finds and amazing animals to health, innovation and wearable technology. We aim to empower and inspire our readers with the tools needed to understand the world and appreciate its everyday awe.