A few minutes perusing Facebook or Pinterest might leave you longing to go skydiving or whitewater rafting. Our culture is increasingly driven by a competition for authenticity and unique experiences, and research suggests that people believe unique experiences will improve their lives. These interesting life experiences, though, may actually lead to social alienation. A new study has found that people who experience extraordinary events may not be able to discuss those events with their peers, causing people who experience these events to feel excluded and alienated.
Extraordinary Experiences and Alienation
Gus Cooney, a Harvard University social psychologist, began his research project after noticing that people tend to talk most frequently about the ordinary and mundane. He hypothesized that people whose experiences didn’t line up with common experiences might feel left out of these discussions.
To test his hypothesis, Cooney and his team brought 68 participants into their lab. Working with groups of four people, researchers showed one member of each group a “four-star” video of a street magician, while the other three watched a “two-star” video animation. Each participant knew that there were two videos and that one person in their group had seen a different video.
After watching the videos, the group of four had a five-minute discussion. In each of the groups, the lone group member who had seen the extraordinary video reported feeling worse during the group discussion, explaining that he or she felt more excluded.
In two subsequent studies, researchers tested participants’ anticipated feelings about the videos. These studies found that participants believed that the people who watched the extraordinary video would have more to talk about and feel better than the group that watched the average video.
Cooney and his team suggest that this study serves as evidence that people who experience extraordinary events may not be able to talk about those experiences with those who have not experienced the events, and that this can lead to feelings of isolation and alienation. People’s incorrect prediction that these extraordinary events will make them feel better may contribute to their desire to experience the extraordinary.
Sharing ‘extraordinary experiences’ with others may socially alienate us. (2014, October 6). Retrieved from http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/283516.php
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