Relatable Experiences Might Bring Greater Pleasure Than Unique Ones

Relatable Experiences Might Bring Greater Pleasure Than Unique Ones

Whether they're extraordinary or ordinary, experiences that other people can relate to bring more pleasure in the long run. Consider this when making decisions that involve experiences, like holidays, concerts or restaurants.

A study published in Psychological Science explains there are two types of pleasure, social and nonsocial:

A hallmark of the nonsocial pleasures — whether the cool tingle of Dom Pérignon or the hot snarl of a new Maserati — is that people adapt to them quickly, which is why such experiences are typically best when they are novel or rare (Frederick & Loewenstein, 1999; Wilson & Gilbert, 2008). The social pleasures have a different appeal. People crave acceptance, belonging, and camaraderie (Baumeister & Leary, 1995), and the hallmark of these pleasures is that they come more readily to those who fit in than to those who stand out. The two varieties of pleasure give rise to a pair of incompatible desires: to do what other people have not yet done and to be just like everyone else (Brewer, 1991;Fromkin, 1970, 1972).

When we have extraordinary moments, we typically experience significant nonsocial pleasure. But because they're often difficult to relate to, we don't receive nearly as much social pleasure as a more relatable (and usually, less epic) experience. Your friends may be quiet as you talk about bungee jumping off a cliff. They aren't necessarily jealous. They're just finding it difficult to relate to.

That's not to say extraordinary moments are all inherently difficult to relate to. For example, running into a movie star would bring just as much social pleasure as it brings nonsocial pleasure.

Similarly, not all ordinary moments are relatable. You would not gain social pleasure if all your friends watched one movie and you watched a different one (even if you thought it was better).

Consider that while social pleasure is certainly valuable, it can be equally important for your personal development to break away from hedonistic adaptation.

The Unforeseen Costs of Extraordinary Experience [PDF] | via PsyBlog


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