The AtlanticThe Atlantic

I ruined two birthday parties and learned the limits of psychology

By Adam Mastroianni

25 Apr 2023 · 8 min read

Editor's Note

Research shows that talking to strangers can be surprisingly delightful, so one psychologist set out to try it for himself. The result was hilariously unsatisfying.

A good way to learn psychology is to ruin two birthday parties.

Take it from me: I’ve got a Ph.D. in experimental psychology, but I didn’t really understand my own field until I started showing up at strangers’ birthday parties because science told me to. And now that I’ve inadvertently wrecked multiple get-togethers, I finally know the true meaning of psychology.

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