If you want to try out the (FREE!) scavenger hunt game mentioned on NPR and the BBC (summer-autumn 2019):

  • Download the free GooseChase app (from your usual app store)
  • Create an account
  • Search for a game called “Talking2Strangers” and join the game
  • To help with our research, do the “1-FIRST” mission first (by clicking the “Attached Link” button), and click “Attached Link” again after completing each mission (i.e., after each conversation)
  • Start talking!

For more detailed instructions click here

A confession:

I talk to strangers. Even on the Tube in London. I haven’t always done this, but I’ve always seen it – both of my parents regularly talk to strangers. I admit, I found it a bit embarrassing as a kid. And annoying: going grocery shopping with my Dad was torture, because it would take SOOOO long. But I could see how much my parents enjoyed it, and how much the people they talked to enjoyed it, and how we sometimes learned new things. I also learned that you can develop skills; my Dad often uses the same opening lines, especially when talking to kids, because he’s learned that they get people talking.

The first time I remember deliberately starting a chat with a stranger was on the subway in Toronto. It was at a time when there was a wave of amazing cupcake shops, and this lady on the subway was carrying a beautiful cupcake. I started talking about the cupcake, but ended up learning from her that people can ride ostriches! I was hooked. Since then I’ve had many adventures #Talking2Strangers, and I’ve made it a central topic of my research.

Contact Me

Department of Psychology
University of Essex
Wivenhoe Park
Colchester, U.K.

Email: gsands (at) essex.ac.uk
Twitter: @GillianSocial
Google Scholar profile
Academia.edu profile

Educational Affiliations

University of Essex (Current affiliation)
> My profile at Essex

University of Cambridge (Post-doc)
> Dr. Jason Rentfrow
> Dr. Cecilia Mascolo

University of British Columbia (PhD)
> Social Cognition and Emotion Lab (Dr. Elizabeth Dunn)
> Social Identity Lab (Dr. Toni Schmader)

Ryerson University (Masters)
> SMART Lab (Dr. Frank Russo)