PETER SAGAL, HOST:
Right now, panel, some time for you to answer some questions about this week's news. Karen, a new study from a Harvard University psychologist finds that human beings are very, very bad at knowing when to do what?
KAREN CHEE: Use the bathroom.
SAGAL: No, we're actually pretty good at that.
JOSH GONDELMAN: (Laughter).
SAGAL: Is this a problem you've been having?
CHEE: Yeah, I guess it's just a me thing. I just want to save it all up for, you know, one hour of the day.
SAGAL: No, not that.
CHEE: OK. Human beings are really bad at knowing when to eat?
SAGAL: Now, all I can say is, Karen, is that you live your life with a lot more freedom than I do.
SAGAL: These are things you can choose what you're - when you're going to do them.
CHEE: It's that, or I have too little freedom.
SAGAL: OK, let me - I'll give you a hint. Well, anyway, let me tell you more about this dream I had. So...
CHEE: When you are allowed to quote Martin Luther King Jr...
MAZ JOBRANI: (Laughter).
CHEE: ...Saying some beautiful things.
SAGAL: You know, I think I can understand why you're having such a hard time with this because it's been at least a year since you've been to a party.
CHEE: That is true. Yes.
CHEE: Is that also a hint?
SAGAL: Which means human beings are really, really bad at knowing when to stop doing what?
CHEE: Telling a story (laughter).
(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)
(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE SOUND EFFECT)
SAGAL: ...Talking. People are really bad at knowing when they should just stop talking to the person...
CHEE: Oh, wow.
SAGAL: ...They're talking to. The study tested it by having people talk to each other and then asking them later when they wished that conversation had ended. And it turns out that a given conversation on average lasts 50% longer than either participant wants it to.
SAGAL: The finding was called, quote, "astounding" by one researcher, who has never been to a party.
JOBRANI: I wonder if they did this study with kids and their parents. The kids would have been, like, as soon as he said, let me tell you, just stop him.
JOBRANI: Stop him.
SAGAL: Have you guys had - you must have had this experience. It's, like, talking to a stranger, usually at a party. And you're, like, talking to them. You're talking to them. And you're, like, I really don't want to be talking to this person anymore. It turns out, according to this study, that person is very much likely saying the same thing to himself or herself.
SAGAL: So you can say, you know, hey, both of us would rather be someplace else. Am I right?
SAGAL: And you part as friends.
GONDELMAN: That's like getting the advice, bears are exactly as afraid of you as you are of them.
SAGAL: Exactly. So don't confuse the two advice. Don't, like, try to get out of a conversation at a party by making yourself bigger or punching it in the nose. That's not going to help.
GONDELMAN: Should I climb a tree?
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "A LITTLE LESS CONVERSATION")
ELVIS PRESLEY: (Singing) A little less conversation, a little more action, please. All this aggravation ain't satisfaction in me. A little more bite and a little less bark, a little less fight and a little more spark. Close your mouth and open up your heart.
SAGAL: Coming up, we are the champions in our Bluff the Listener game. Call 1-888-WAIT-WAIT to play. We'll be back in a minute with more of WAIT WAIT... DON'T TELL ME from NPR. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.