Paper claims that uncommon experiences won't make you happy in the long run

A new paper by Harvard University entitled 'The Unforeseen Costs Of Extraordinary Experience' claims that the alienation and resentment that can be felt when describing the experience of your extravagant holiday to friends outweighs the enjoyment of it.

A trio of psychologists found that uncommon experiences make us "alien and enviable" and leave us feeling left out, if anything making people less likely to want to be our friend rather than somehow craving our friendship more because we're having a wild time.

Half of respondents were given a high-quality clip of a street magician to watch and the other a half low-quality animation, and when they met to discuss what they had seen afterwards it was found that the portion with the higher quality clips were initially happier but felt excluded from those who had seen the cartoon, while the other group were united by their common ground and were happier overall.

It's hard to see how this methodology can be so easily transferred to conversation and social media interactions about lifestyles, but let's roll with them for now.

"At worst, people may be envious and resentful of those who have had an extraordinary experience, and at best, they may find themselves with little to talk about," the paper's authors Gus Cooney, Daniel T. Gilbert and Timothy D. Wilson wrote.

A typical Facebook scene

"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."

This might be a leap to say that we are unable to interact with others unless we are united by the same mundane experience, that we shouldn't seek out extreme or extravagant experiences and that sharing cherished moments only leads to resentment, but the conclusions are interesting nonetheless.

"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?" the paper's abstract reads.

"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.

"Participants were able to predict the benefits of having an extraordinary experience but were unable to predict the costs.

"These studies suggest that people may pay a surprising price for the experiences they covet most."