New research from the University of Texas at Austin suggests people too often opt to send email or text messages when a phone call is more likely to produce the feelings of connectedness they crave.
They carried out an experiment on 200 people in which they asked those people to make predictions about what it would be like to reconnect with an old friend either via email or phone, and then they randomly assigned them to actually do it. Even though participants intuited that a phone call would make them feel more connected, they still said they would prefer to email because they expected calling would be too awkward.
But the phone call went much better than an email, researchers found.
In one another experiment, researchers randomly assigned strangers to connect either by texting during a live chat, talking over video chat, or talking using only audio. Participants had to ask and answer a series of personal questions such as, “Is there something you’ve dreamed of doing for a long time? Why haven’t you done it?” or “Can you describe a time you cried in front of another person?”
Participants didn’t expect that the media through which they communicated would matter, and in this case they also predicted that they would feel just as connected to the stranger via text as by phone.
But the researchers found when they really interacted, people felt significantly more connected when they communicated by talking than by typing. And, again, they found it wasn’t more awkward to hear each other’s voices.
In fact, the voice itself—even without visual cues—seemed to be integral to bonding, the researchers found.
Confronting another myth about voice-based media, researchers timed participants reconnecting with their old friend. They found the call took about the same amount of time as reading and responding to email.
According to researchers, the results both reveal and challenge people’s assumptions about communication media at a time when managing relationships via technology is especially important.
References: Amit Kumar et al. It’s surprisingly nice to hear you: Misunderstanding the impact of communication media can lead to suboptimal choices of how to connect with others., Journal of Experimental Psychology: General (2020). DOI: 10.1037/xge0000962