Simply doing something simultaneously with other people can change our own experiences. Even when no communication takes place. I've been exploring some of the ways sharing experiences affects people.


Boothby, E., Clark, M.S., & Bargh, J.A. (2014). Shared Experiences are Amplified. Psychological Science

In two studies, we found that sharing an experience with another person, without communicating, amplifies one’s experience. Both pleasant and unpleasant experiences were more intense when shared. In Study 1, participants tasted pleasant chocolate. They judged the chocolate to be more likeable and flavorful when they tasted it at the same time that another person did than when that other person was present but engaged in a different activity. Although these results were consistent with our hypothesis that shared experiences are amplified compared with unshared experiences, it could also be the case that shared experiences are more enjoyable in general. We designed Study 2 to distinguish between these two explanations. In this study, participants tasted unpleasantly bitter chocolate and judged it to be less likeable when they tasted it simultaneously with another person than when that other person was present but doing something else. These results support the amplification hypothesis.

Boothby, E., Smith, L.K., Clark, M.S., & Bargh, J.A. (2016). Psychological Distance Moderates the Amplification of Shared Experience. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin

Sharing an experience with another person can amplify that experience. Here, we propose for the first time that amplification is moderated by the psychological distance between co-experiencers. We predicted that experiences would be amplified for coexperiencers who are psychologically proximate but not for co-experiencers who are psychologically distant. In two studies we manipulated both (a) whether or not a pleasant experience was shared and (b) the psychological distance between co-experiencers, via social distance (Study 1) and spatial distance (Study 2). In Study 1, co-experiencers either were unacquainted (i.e., strangers, socially distant) or became acquainted in the laboratory (i.e., socially proximate). In Study 2, co-experiencers were either in different rooms (i.e., spatially distant) or in the same room (i.e., spatially proximate ). In both studies, the pleasant experience was amplified when shared compared with when not shared, but only when co-experiencers were psychologically proximate (vs. distant) to one another.


Forthcoming Paper:

Boothby, E.J., Smith, L.K., Clark, M.S., & Bargh, J.A. (accepted). The world looks better together: How close others enhance our visual experiences.


Some media coverage of this work:

Atlantic Monthly

Huffington Post

New York Times

Scientific American

Washington Post