Ask Ariely: On Cultivating Conversations, Gathering Groups, and Falsifying Facts

July 17, 2021 BY Dan Ariely

Here’s my Q&A column from the WSJ this week  and if you have any questions for me, you can tweet them to @danariely with the hashtag #askariely, post a comment on my Ask Ariely Facebook page, or email them to AskAriely@wsj.com.


Dear Dan,

I’ve been corresponding with someone online, and we’re going to meet “in real life” for coffee. What’s the optimal length of time for this first get together? Should I just wait and see how the conversation goes and take it from there?


Most conversations probably last too long, not just awkward dating ones: In a recent study, most people asked to recall their last conversation reported that they had wanted it to end sooner.

But if you arrange for a meeting with a potential romantic partner to be just 15 minutes, your date will read this as low interest. Conversely, if you block out five hours, you will suggest a different expectation. So what should you do?

Set the meeting for an hour, which is a good amount of time to form an initial impression. If things don’t seem to be going in the right direction, shift your goal. Start working on your conversational skills: See if you can get the person to open up a bit more, to change their mind about something or to tell you a joke. Not all meetings need to be romantic. If you have more time than you need, try to make a different use of it.


Dear Dan,

My employees have been working remotely for more than a year and will be returning to the office in the fall. Is there anything I can do now to help us start to feel like more of a group again?


Organize an in-person dinner with your team before it returns to the office—and order family style. Meals naturally bring people together, and the manner in which they are served can affect cooperation among those at the table. In a 2019 study, students ate salsa and chips in pairs. Some duos were served from one bowl of chips and one bowl of salsa, while others were given separate bowls. Afterward, the students participated in a negotiation exercise. The pairs who had eaten from their own bowls went through thirteen rounds of negotiation, whereas those who had snacked from a shared bowl only went through nine. Working together is a mind set that can carry over from one task to another.


Dear Dan,

The spread of false and misleading information, whether related to vaccines or politics, seems to be on the rise. Why do people share inaccurate information online?


Researchers recently asked people what mattered most to them in the content they chose to share on social media. The majority said “accuracy,” and when given a selection of real and fake news headlines, the majority were able to tell fact from fiction. But when the researchers asked a separate group of respondents which of these headlines they would be willing to share online, the misinformation was the clear winner.

So why do people prefer to share misinformation, even when they value accuracy and are able to identify falsehoods? The researchers point to distraction and inattention. When they prompted Twitter users, even subtly, to think about accuracy before sharing content, the quality of the postings improved.
Now we just need to get social media platforms to do something that reminds us of our preference for accuracy before we share.

See the original article in the Wall Street Journal.