An interview with Irene Scopelliti

Just a few days left to go till we get connected at TEDxSquareMile, and we’ve been asking some of our speakers to share their thoughts about connectivity. First up, consumer psychology researcher Irene Scopelliti…

What does ‘getting connected’ mean to you?

irene_scopetelliTransforming one-shot interactions and random encounters into ongoing relationships that transcend geographical proximity, such that we feel together even when far apart. Getting connected opens up the possibility to have a constant exchange of information, experiences, and emotions with other people who have crossed our path.

Tell us a little about the talk you’ll present and its relation to the ‘Get connected’ theme…

The fact that we are more and more connected to one another multiplies the opportunities to self-promote and brag, in particular via social networking. In addition, some connections are relatively superficial. I’ll present some ideas on the psychology of bragging drawn from research my coauthors and I have conducted on the topic. These ideas help understand how an empathy gap between communicators and their recipients can explain why bragging is perceived so negatively, especially online.

What has your research revealed about the way that people connect with each other and with themselves?

People often brag with good intentions, they share with others their achievements and great moments motivated by their pride and happiness, and by the belief that others may be experiencing the same positive emotions. However, their beliefs often don’t match reality, resulting in what in our studies we call an ‘emotional miscalibration.’ This miscalibration makes us tend to overestimate the extent to which our counterparts will feel proud and happy for us when we brag and underestimate the extent to which they will be annoyed when hearing our good news.

Why do people brag, and do you think they do so more now in the era of social media?

The emotional miscalibration that we observed in our studies may be exacerbated online, because although social media allows us to connect with more and more contacts, these connections may be relatively superficial. A higher psychological distance can increase the empathy gap between our connections and us. Moreover, having a large number of connections may make us feel like we have an audience, which prompts us to engage in more self-promotion and brag more than what we would normally do.

What drew you towards presenting a talk at TEDxSquareMile?
I wanted to make people aware of the empathy gap between our connections and us, and of the potential negative emotional consequences attached to it. Awareness and small nudges to reduce the empathy gap can help us reap more benefits of being connected.

What makes you feel most connected?
Technology. In whatever form allows me to get and feel connected with the important people in my life, wherever in the world I am.

Interview by Chris Glithero.

Check back tomorrow for an interview with laughter yoga practitioner Arturs Ivanovs.

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