Nicholas Epley, a behavioral science professor at University of Chicago, conducted a research study delving into the paradox on why people benefit from deep, meaningful conversations over shallow ones, yet are hesitant to do so when conversing with strangers. In a study involving some 1,800 participants, the team discovered that people generally underestimate how much another person would be interested in learning about their thoughts and feelings. They also overestimated the awkwardness a deep question might generate in a conversation if asked. “Our participants’ expectations about deeper conversations were not woefully misguided," said Epley. "But they were reliably miscalibrated in a way that could keep people from engaging a little more deeply with others in their daily lives."

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