Research on Minimal Social Interactions

My favourite stories are the ones where minimal connections between a tapestry of strangers (or acquaintances/weak ties) come together to tell a story. These stories seem more and more plausible in our increasingly connected world. Despite this, we now live in a culture of disconnection: People find it hard to make friends, and suffer emotionally and physically from a lack of belonging. My research addresses this apparent contradiction by focusing at the micro level, examining how seemingly insignificant social interactions and everyday behaviours can influence and improve well-being. This line of research examines the following questions:

  • When and how do people benefit from feeling connected to others?
  • When and how do social interactions lead to feelings of connection?
  • What personal and cultural factors promote/inhibit social interactions?
  • What fears do people have about talking to others?
  • How do fears vary across people (e.g., due to individual differences) and across types of conversations
  • How do fears affect the success of a social interaction?
  • Can interventions target fears to improve the success of social interactions?

Click to access each publication and each media article. If you would like to read a paper, but can’t access it, please email me and I’d be happy to send a copy for your personal use. Click here for more resources.


Moreton, J., Kelly, C.S., & Sandstrom G.M. (2023). Social support from weak ties: Insight from the literature on minimal social interactions. Social and Personality Psychology Compass, e12729.

Sandstrom G.M.,* Boothby, E.J.*, & Cooney, G.* (2022). Talking to strangers: A week-long intervention reduces fear of rejection and increases conversational ability. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 102.

Sandstrom, G.M., & Boothby, E.J. (2021). Why do people avoid talking to strangers? A mini meta-analysis of predicted fears and actual experiences talking to a stranger. Self and Identity, 20(1), 47-71.

Sandstrom, G.M., & Whillans, A.V. (2020). Why you miss those casual friends so much. Harvard Business Review.

Boothby, E.J., Cooney, G., Sandstrom, G.M., & Clark, M.S. (2018). The liking gap in conversations: Do people like us more than we think? Psychological Science, 29(11), 1742–1756.

Sandstrom, G.M., & Rawn, C.D. (2015). Embrace chattering students: They are building community and interest in your class. Teaching of Psychology, 42, 227-233.

Sandstrom, G.M., & Dunn, E.W. (2014). Social interactions and well-being: The surprising power of weak ties. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 40, 910-922.

Sandstrom, G.M., & Dunn, E.W. (2014). Is efficiency overrated?: Minimal social interactions lead to belonging and positive affect. Social Psychological and Personality Science, 5, 436-441.

Selected Media Coverage


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