Link: The Unforeseen Costs of Extraordinary Experience

I came across this paper a while ago, and the conclusions stuck with me. That having some kind of fancy experience, which you might expect to make you the centre of attention in social situations, actually can end up feeling alienating. Because it marks you as different.

It also reminded me of something I’d often noticed. When I meet with old friends we often dwell on quite normal things, but ones where we shared them. “Do you remember this thing we did together?”, “Yes, I remember doing that thing with you, wasn’t it funny when …?”. And the paper’s conclusions kind of make sense of this: we enjoy feeling part of a group, and reaffirming we remember this or that experience we had together is a good way to do that.

It probably doesn’t have to be a normal thing, strictly I suppose it could be, “Do you remember the time we both went up in a rocket ship and saw the Earth from space?”, “Yes, I remember going up in a rocket ship with you, and wasn’t it funny when you splurted space food out your nose!” But for most people it’s more likely to be something more mundane 😂

People seek extraordinary experiences—from drinking rare wines and taking exotic vacations to jumping from airplanes and shaking hands with celebrities. But are such experiences worth having? We found that participants thoroughly enjoyed having experiences that were superior to those had by their peers, but that having had such experiences spoiled their subsequent social interactions and ultimately left them feeling worse than they would have felt if they had had an ordinary experience instead.

From The Unforeseen Costs of Extraordinary Experience — hit “Read full-text” rather than “Download full-text PDF” to read online for free.

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