Better Together

We’ll Give Up a Lot to Share Experiences With Loved Ones, Study Shows

What’s better: a solo front-row seat at Cirque du Soleil, or the nosebleeds with a bestie? A bite of chocolate with a loved one, or two for yourself? Wedging into coach with your significant other, or stretching out your legs alone up front?

In a series of experiments, a UMD researcher and colleagues from Harvard and Texas A&M found study participants were willing to pass up a “better” experience in exchange for a shared experience with someone they care for.

“We designed them so it’s not like you’re trading a front-row seat for a chance to have a good talk with your friend–you’re sacrificing enjoyment just to be physically closer to them,” says Rebecca Ratner, Dean’s Professor of Marketing and co-author of the study published in the Journal of Consumer Psychology.

The “why” behind the phenomenon appears to relate to expectations that proximity creates stronger shared memories, she says. Ratner, whose earlier research showed people are hesitant to do recreational activities alone, says togetherness is likely part of being human: “This instinct to be physically close seems to have done very well for our species.”


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