Feeling adventurous? Extraordinary experiences could hurt your relationships, study says

If you’ve just returned from an exotic getaway, gushing about it may harm your relationships, suggests a study published in the journal Psychological Science.

“Extraordinary experiences are pleasurable in the moment but can leave us socially worse off in the long run,” study author Gus Cooney, a psychologist at Harvard University, said in a news release.

Cooney said the study was prompted by personal experiences. His inspiration isn’t uncommon: Imagine a situation when an ordinary conversation about TV or work is hijacked by someone’s tale of a fantastic trip, and everyone else feels left out.

To mimic those conditions, Cooney showed different videos to 68 participants, divided into groups of four. In each group, three people watched video of a “2-star” rated cartoon, while the fourth person watched  a “3-star” rated film of a street magician. The participants then sat together for five minutes of unstructured conversation. Those who watched the magician video— called the “extraordinary experiencers”— said they felt excluded during the discussion, while those who watched the mundane action did not.

In two additional studies, researchers asked participants to predict how a person would feel as an “extraordinary experiencer.” The participants said they thought that an “extraordinary experiencer” would be happiest and feel the least isolated because he or she was the center of attention.

“But they were wrong,” Cooney said, “because to be extraordinary is to be different than other people, and social interaction is grounded in similarities.”

Cooney said the lesson is not to avoid adventure— but rather to consider social interactions when planning an epic experience.

"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,” he said.