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.

Sign in to informed

  • Curated articles from premium publishers, ad-free
  • Concise Daily Briefs with quick-read summaries
  • Read, listen, save for later, or enjoy offline
  • Enjoy personalized content
Or

LoginForm.agreeToTerms