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People are Surprisingly Hesitant to Reach Out to Old Friends

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posted on 2024-03-26, 10:48 authored by Lara B Aknin, Gillian SandstromGillian Sandstrom
Social relationships provide one of the most reliable paths to happiness, but relationships can fade for various reasons. While it does not take much to reinitiate contact, here we find that people are surprisingly reluctant to do so. Specifically, most people reported losing touch with an old friend yet expressed little interest in reaching out (Studies 1-2, Ns = 401 and 199). Moreover, fewer than one third of participants sent a message to an old friend, even when they wanted to, thought the friend would be appreciative, had the friend’s contact information, and were given time to draft and send a message (Studies 3-4, Ns = 453 and 604). One reason for this reluctance may be that old friends feel like strangers. Supporting this possibility, participants were no more willing to reach out to an old friend than they were to talk to a stranger (Study 5, N=288), and were less willing to contact old friends who felt more like strangers (Study 6, N=319). Therefore, in Study 7 (N=194), we adapted an intervention shown to ease anxieties about talking to strangers and found that it increased the number of people who reached out to an old friend by two-thirds.

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Publication status

  • Accepted

File Version

  • Accepted version

Journal

Communications Psychology

Publisher

Springer Nature

Department affiliated with

  • Psychology Publications

Institution

University of Sussex

Peer reviewed?

  • Yes

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