As social creatures, people tend to want to experience good times—and get through the tough times—in the presence of others, since it makes us feel more connected.
But we also prefer to experience separate events, good or bad, at the same time, suggest University of California at Los Angeles’ Franklin Shaddy and University of Florida’s Yanping Tu, both recent graduates of the Chicago Booth PhD Program, and Booth’s Ayelet Fishbach. For example, knowing that your friend is having a root canal on the same day as you may make it feel like a shared experience—and make it a little easier to handle.
In one study, the researchers arranged for participants, all UCLA students, to receive a personalized video message from a local celebrity, the school’s men’s basketball coach. Each participant then had to choose a friend to receive a similar message, and decide whether the message should be sent on the same day or a different day. Almost all participants, 88 percent, wanted the video message sent on the same day, supporting a hypothesis the researchers refer to as a desire for temporal “integration.”
And the research suggests people would prefer this kind of coordinated experience with a friend, but wouldn’t care to have two events happen simultaneously to themselves. In another experiment, Shaddy, Tu, and Fishbach asked participants to consider a pair of events, such as winning $50 and $100 in an office lottery. Some participants were asked about winning both awards themselves (the self-self condition)—would they prefer to win the two prizes on the same day or different days? But others were asked about a situation where they win $50 and their friend wins $100 (the self-other condition). Again, would they want the wins to occur on the same day or different days?