News Release 

When people want conversations to end

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

Research News

A study examines when conversations between people end. Although conversation is among the most ubiquitous of social activities, it is unclear whether conversations end when people want them to end. Adam Mastroianni and colleagues conducted two studies in which participants reported when they had wanted a dyadic conversation to end and estimated when the participant's partner had wanted it to end. In the first study, 806 respondents completed an online survey about their most recent conversation with an intimate, such as a friend or family member. In the second study, 252 participants were paired with a stranger to discuss anything for as long as they wanted, so long as the conversation was longer than 1 minute and shorter than 45 minutes. Both studies revealed that conversations almost never ended when both conversants wanted them to end, that conversations rarely ended when even one person wanted them to end, and that the average difference between the desired conversation duration and the actual duration was roughly half the duration of the conversation itself. Furthermore, people were poor at estimating their partner's desire to end a conversation and did not realize how different their partner's desire was from their own. The findings suggest that most conversations do not end when the conversants want them to end, according to the authors.


Article #20-11809: "Do conversations end when people want them to?" by Adam M. Mastroianni, Daniel T. Gilbert, Gus Cooney, and Timothy D. Wilson.

Adam Mastroianni,
Harvard University, Cambridge, MA;
tel: 419-681-4347;
email: <>

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