Sharing Extraordinary Experiences Increases Isolation Risk among Friends, Study


Sharing extraordinary experiences runs the risk of isolation among a group of friends, according to a Harvard University study.

Researchers said that talking enthusiastically about epic experiences like climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro, tasting a rare wine or running into a celebrity comes at social cost. Since group discussions thrive on ordinary topics, astonishing tales are isolated cases and increase the feelings of loneliness among concerned individuals.

"Extraordinary experiences are pleasurable in the moment but can leave us socially worse off in the long run," said psychological scientist and study author Gus Cooney, in a press release. "The participants in our study mistakenly thought that having an extraordinary experience would make them the star of the conversation. But they were wrong, because to be extraordinary is to be different than other people, and social interaction is grounded in similarities."

In the study, researchers wanted to analyse the downstream consequences of experiences that are rare and fine.

For the study, researchers divided 68 participants into groups of four. In each group, one participant was assigned to watch a highly-rated "4-star" video of a street magician performing for a crowd, while the other three participants were told to watch a lower-rated "2-star" animated video. After watching the videos, participants had a 5-minute conversation.

Researchers found that participants, who watched the 4-star video, were in a worst condition after the group discussion than those who watched the 2-star video. The reason for their dismal state can be attributed to their increased exclusion during the discussion. Plus, the extraordinary watchers were unaware of the repercussions of sharing their accounts.

Listeners to the extraordinary events believed that reciters would actually feel better than those with normal occurrences. They also anticipated that reciters would talk more during the post-movie discussion and would not feel excluded.

The findings suggest people practice caution while sharing experiences in a group.

"When choosing between experiences, don't just think about how they will feel when they happen - think about how they will impact your social interactions," said Cooney. "If an experience turns you into someone who has nothing in common with others, then no matter how good it was, it won't make you happy in the long run."

The findings are published in Psychological Science.

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