Experiment to Increase Meaningful Conversations

Introducing a social contract that people sign agreeing to meaningful conversation can increase conversation quality over instant messaging when two people are anonymous. 

Project Date

August 2013 - July 2016


Echo, Duke University, The Center for Advanced Hindsight

(The Fabulous is a 2016 Material Design Award-winning, Google Play Editor's Choice app that has won consecutive top chart listings.


Under Dan Ariely's advisement, I designed and conducted an experiment to find out factors that would enhance conversation quality among strangers for an app I was developing. How can we create a virtual environment that enhances meaningful conversations over instant messaging? Would people be more open with each other if they were anonymous? What if they signed a social contract agreeing to meaningful conversation?  

Hypothesis & Questions

Hypothesis: Signing a social contract agreeing to have a meaningful conversation between two strangers will lead to a higher quality conversation experience. Additionally, how will anonymity affect instant messaging conversations? How will anonymity interact with social contracts?



Research Design & Methodology

I recruited 128 people and randomly assigned them to 1 of 4 groups testing 2 factors: social contracts vs. social presence. 

meaningful convo


´╗┐Conversation pairs who saw each other reported better conversation quality and better partner impression. The social contract was effective when conversation pairs were anonymous to each other. 


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