In an age of social media where the curated life is king, it seems an assault to the senses to think that actually, no one really wants to hear about everything you did on your ah-mazing vacation – but that’s exactly what the results of a new study suggest.
Research published recently in the Psychological Science journal found that while we seem to enjoy hearing sharing in people’s new experiences we are familiar with, we’re really not that interested in hearing about it if it’s new to us. Participants in the study were divided into two groups of speakers and listeners. The speakers were instructed to watch a short video and fill out a survey predicting how their audience would respond to it when they explained it to the listeners. They then presented their stories to a few listeners, who recorded their reactions once it was finished.
The speakers generally believed that their listeners would be more interested in hearing about something they weren’t familiar with, but results showed the opposite. Listeners who had already seen the video the speakers presented reported a more positive response to hearing about it, while those who hadn’t seen the video were decidedly less impressed. On top of this, speakers predicted that listeners would award them a “novelty bonus” if they were able to include new information in their stories, when in fact they were imposed with a “novelty penalty”.
Co-author Daniel Gilbert, a psychologist at Harvard, believes the reason behind this could simply be that human beings aren’t as good at storytelling as we thinking we are. “Our friends would enjoy hearing us tell them about a painting they’ve never seen or a book they’ve never read if we could describe those things well,” he explained in a statement, “but most of us can’t.”
So if you’ve just gotten back from a trip to Bali having stayed in a place your mate recommended, chances are you’ll have a more riveting conversation than sharing your experiences of a soul-searching odyssey throughout the bowels of a lesser-known part of the world. The lesson here? Tell your friends what they already know – at least then they’ll understand what you’re talking about. They’ll thank you for it.