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Gus Cooney, Erica Boothby, Mariana Lee, 'The Thought Gap After Conversation: Underestimating the Frequency of Others’ Thoughts About Us', Journal of Experimental Psychology: GeneralLICENSE FOR USE
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Gus Cooney (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Erica Boothby (email@example.com) ABSTRACT
After conversations, people continue to think about their conversation partners. They remember their stories,
revisit their advice, and replay their criticisms. But do people realize that their conversation partners
are doing the same? In eight studies, we explored the possibility that people would systematically underestimate
how much their conversation partners think about them following interactions. We found evidence
for this thought gap in a variety of contexts, including field conversations in a dining hall (Study
1), “getting acquainted” conversations in the lab (Study 2), intimate conversations among friends (Study
3), and arguments between romantic partners (Study 4). Several additional studies investigated a possible
explanation for the thought gap: the asymmetric availability of one’s own thoughts compared with others'
thoughts. Accordingly, the thought gap increased when conversations became more salient (Study 4) and
as people’s thoughts had more time to accumulate after a conversation (Study 6); conversely, the thought
gap decreased when people were prompted to reflect on their conversation partners’ thoughts (Study 5).
Consistent with our proposed mechanism, we also found that the thought gap was moderated by trait
rumination, or the extent to which people’s thoughts come easily and repetitively to mind (Study 7). In a
final study, we explored the consequences of the thought gap by comparing the effects of thought frequency
to thought valence on the likelihood of reconciliation after an argument (Study 8). Collectively,
these studies demonstrate that people remain on their conversation partners’ minds more than they know.