Given the choice between going to a bar with Jessica Alba and going to a bar with our same group of friends, most of us would probably pick the date with the onetime “Sexiest Woman in the World” and impresario of eco-friendly baby-products. But perhaps we should rethink that choice and opt for another night of beers with the gang.
A recent study in Psychological Science suggests that unusual experiences have a social cost, in that they alienate us from our peers. “Extraordinary experiences are both different from and better than the experiences that most other people have,” the authors note, “and being both alien and enviable is an unlikely recipe for popularity.”
To test this hypothesis, the researchers treated a group of university students to a movie screening. The 68 participants each reported to the Harvard Decision Science Laboratory and were broken into groups of four. One person from each group was sent to a cubicle to watch an interesting video of a talented street magician performing tricks for an appreciative crowd. The other three were assigned to watch a mundane clip of a low-budget cartoon. Everyone was told whether they were assigned to watch the boring video or the interesting one.
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