The Liking gap

Having conversations with new people is an important and rewarding part of social life. Yet conversations are also intimidating and anxiety provoking, and people wonder and worry about what their conversation partners really think of them. Are people accurate in their estimates? We found that following interactions people systematically underestimated how much their conversation partners liked them and enjoyed their company, an illusion we call the liking gap. We observed the liking gap as strangers got acquainted in the lab, as first year college students got to know their dorm mates, and as formerly unacquainted members of the general public got to know each other during a professional development workshop. The liking gap persisted in conversations of varying lengths, and even for the better part of a year as college dorm mates developed new relationships. Our studies suggest that after people have conversations, they are liked more than they know.


Boothby, E. J.*, Cooney, G.*, Sandstrom, G. M., & Clark, M. S. (2018). The liking gap in conversations: Do people like us more than we think? Psychological Science.

Work in progress

Sandstrom, G., Boothby, E. J., & Cooney, G. How to get people to talk to strangers and the benefits of doing so.

Boothby, E. J., Walker, J., Welker, C., & Gilovich, T. The stress of everyday informal conversation.

Mastroianni, A., Cooney, G., Boothby, E. J., & Reece, A. The liking gap in groups and teams.

Boothby, E. J. & Bohns, V. K. Why simple acts of kindness are not as simple as they seem: Underestimating the positive impact of our compliments on others.

Media Coverage



New York Times