Most of the good stuff in life gets even better when you share the experience with someone else. This is not the most groundbreaking statement, true. But new research finds that the opposite is true, too: Sharing an experience with someone else seems to amplify the intensity of the situation, write a trio of psychologists from Yale University in an upcoming Psychological Science paper, whether it’s positive or negative.
In one study, researchers paired participants with a “partner” who was actually a member of the research team. First, they asked both participants to taste a piece of chocolate at the same time. Then they asked the “real” participant to try a second piece of chocolate (which was actually the same kind of chocolate) while their partner looked at a piece of artwork. After the tastings, the study volunteers rated each chocolate, and most said they enjoyed the chocolate they tasted with their partner more than the one they tried when their partner was present but otherwise occupied.
A second study mirrored the first, but this time, with a very strong, dark chocolate, which the researchers had determined had a “moderately to highly unpleasant” taste. This time, participants reported liking the chocolate less when they tried it alongside a partner.
The authors offer this by way of explanation:
Consider the following example. You and your friend are listening to Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring.” Thoughts about this piece of music are now intertwined with thoughts about your friend. Even though you are both focused on the melody, you are also highly aware of one another. Thinking about your friend and her mind might therefore cause you to think more about the “Rite of Spring” since that is also what is on her mind. Indeed, we may be built to automatically imagine or simulate how others see, hear, smell, taste, and feel things, and these imaginings or simulations could impact our own perceptions, as suggested by the present studies.
What’s interesting is that we may not be all that aware of how sharing an experience with a friend intensifies it: When the researchers asked the study participants to rate how much they thought their buddy influenced their experience, the average score was 0.46 out of 6.
Now that you do know, though, it’s a solid argument for sharing dessert with a friend.