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Monday, February 21, 2022

Fast response times signal social connection in conversation

Templeton, E. M. et al.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 
Jan 2022, 119 (4) e2116915119


Clicking is one of the most robust metaphors for social connection. But how do we know when two people "click"? We asked pairs of friends and strangers to talk with each other and rate their felt connection. For both friends and strangers, speed in response was a robust predictor of feeling connected. Conversations with faster response times felt more connected than conversations with slower response times, and within conversations, connected moments had faster response times than less-connected moments. This effect was determined primarily by partner responsivity: People felt more connected to the degree that their partner responded quickly to them rather than by how quickly they responded to their partner. The temporal scale of these effects (<250 ms) precludes conscious control, thus providing an honest signal of connection. Using a round-robin design in each of six closed networks, we show that faster responders evoked greater feelings of connection across partners. Finally, we demonstrate that this signal is used by third-party listeners as a heuristic of how well people are connected: Conversations with faster response times were perceived as more connected than the same conversations with slower response times. Together, these findings suggest that response times comprise a robust and sufficient signal of whether two minds “click.”


Social connection is critical for our mental and physical health yet assessing and measuring connection has been challenging. Here, we demonstrate that a feature intrinsic to conversation itself—the speed with which people respond to each other—is a simple, robust, and sufficient metric of social connection. Strangers and friends feel more connected when their conversation partners respond quickly. Because extremely short response times (<250 ms) preclude conscious control, they provide an honest signal that even eavesdroppers use to judge how well two people “click.”