Disrupting the flow: How brief silences in group conversations affect social needs

Namkje Koudenburg*, Tom Postmes, Ernestine H. Gordijn

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

    49 Citations (Scopus)
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    We all know the awkward feeling when a conversation is disrupted by a brief silence. This paper studies why such moments can be unsettling. We suggest that silences are particularly disturbing if they disrupt the conversational flow. In two experiments we examined the effects of a single brief instance of silence on social needs, perceived consensus, emotions, and rejection. Study 1 demonstrated that fluent conversations are associated with feelings of belonging, self-esteem, and social validation. If a brief silence disrupts this fluency, negative emotions and feelings of rejection arise. Study 2 replicated these effects in a more realistic setting, and showed that the effects of a brief silence are considerable despite participants' unawareness of the silence. Together, results show that conversational flow induces a sense of belonging and positive self-esteem. Moreover, this research suggests an implicit route to social validation, in which consensus is inferred from fluent group conversation. (c) 2010 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)512-515
    Number of pages4
    JournalJournal of Experimental Social Psychology
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - Mar-2011


    • Conversational flow
    • Rejection
    • Social needs
    • Social validation
    • Perceived consensus

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