Conversation Pieces: The Role of Products in Facilitating Conversation
Positive social interactions and relationships are a fundamental human need, but it is not always easy to initiate conversations with potential relationship partners. Seven studies show the role that conversation pieces, or products that elicit questions and comments from others, can play in helping consumers to achieve their social goals. Studies 1 and 2 explore what makes a product a conversation piece and how different types of conversation pieces differentially affect social interactions. Studies 3-7 examine how observers (consumers who see another person displaying a conversation piece) use conversation pieces to facilitate social interactions. Studies 3 and 4 show that observers are more likely to approach people displaying conversation pieces than those who are not, as long as these products increase observers’ predictions of conversation quality. Study 5 demonstrates that observers generate better opening lines when they start a conversation with someone wearing a conversation piece than with someone who is not. Study 6 provides field experiment evidence that starting a conversation by asking about a conversation piece increases self-disclosure and improves perceived conversation quality, and study 7 explores the role of self-disclosure in conversations in more depth.
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