Imagine this. A group of people sit together, eating Skittles. Next door, people sit eating the sweets on their own. Everybody is eating the same amount of candy, the same flavours from the same ‘fun size’ bags. Who will be the first to feel he or she has eaten enough?
In our experiments, it’s the groups, rather than the individuals, who decide sooner that they’ve had their fill. Sharing the experience speeds up feelings of enjoyment – the pleasure of eating the sweets is over faster if you’re in a group, all doing the same thing.
Social context matters for the arc of enjoyment of an experience.
We’ve tested this idea in many other ways. In one experiment, we asked individuals to view works of art (paintings) online but crucially allowed them to believe they were sharing the experience simultaneously with another viewer. We then allowed other people to look at the pictures by themselves.