Irish people are well known for their ability to engage in small talk about the weather or sport or the state of the country. New research has revealed that four minutes of small talk can leave a lasting impression and affect future social interactions. Behavioural psychologist Pádraig Walshe joined the Drivetime show on RTÉ Radio 1 to discuss the research. (This piece includes excerpts from the conversation which have been edited for length and clarity - you can hear the discussion in full above.)

Small talk is an almost universal feature of our lives, says Walsh, but has been largely under-researched until now. "What's important about small talk is that it is devoid of any strategic content so there's no underlying motives in small talk. It's just good, honest weather chit chat or travel plans or celebrity gossip. Most of us do it quite well and we enjoy doing it a lot of the time.

"The study examines the importance of small talk in how well we can predict somebody else's personality and their behavior from just a short four minute conversation. Now, it was a game based interaction in this study, which is something that involves trust and co-operation. In real life, we have game based interactions all the time, like a business deal or collaborating as a team at work or even forming a romantic relationship or being a good neighbour.

We tend to be more comfortable in Ireland with filling the air with small talk

"Study participants took two tests, one IQ test and one personality test, and they were paired up with somebody who they were going to play an online strategy game with later on. One group didn't have an opportunity to talk with their colleagues, the other group had just four minutes of text chat with somebody with nothing to do with the next task.

"What the researchers found was that those who trusted those who chatted, scored more highly on predicting their partners IQ and how extroverted they are and how well they would cooperate. What's more, those who chatted beforehand contributed 30% more than those who had not chatted with each other."

Walsh says the story highlights the importance of small talk in some settings. "It does give us an insight into the importance of those diplomatic dinners that we see with large gatherings of countries or even water cooler conversations that people have. In this context, what you had was text interactions so it wasn't even like we had body language or the tone of our conversation or our facial expressions. This has implications for gamers or online daters or remote workers who are communicating via text."

Walsh says Irish people are at an advantage when it comes to small talk. "We tend to be more comfortable in Ireland with filling the air with small talk - or most of us are. In Scandinavian countries, they tend to be more comfortable with silences and not using small talk as a way to know something is absolutely mind blowing."

Then, there's the tricky subject of wanting to end the chat and move on. "Our body language is a great indicator that we are ready to move on", says Walsh. " You might turn your body away slowly or slowly inch away. Somebody else might take out their phone and say 'it was lovely to talk with you' and end it there. But sometimes we do end up talking to somebody who doesn't pick up on those social things."