People leave jobs, cities, or even lovers when the thrill wears off. But there may be an antidote, according to Chicago Booth’s Ed O’Brien and Ohio State University’s Robert W. Smith: injecting a little novelty into how you experience the familiar, rather than acquiring new things altogether, can reignite pleasure, they find. This may have significant implications from the personal to the environmental.
O’Brien and Smith explored the power of novelty in a series of experiments. In the first, participants came to a lab with the impression that they would learn to eat more slowly. Instead, they were asked to eat popcorn either with their hands or with chopsticks, and then to rate their enjoyment. The researchers find that people who used chopsticks derived significantly more pleasure from eating.
The effect was fleeting, however. When the researchers repeated the experiment with the same participants, those eating popcorn with chopsticks no longer derived more pleasure than the other group, suggesting that the novelty itself caused the increased pleasure in the first phase. “Chopsticks may boost enjoyment not because they represent an inherently superior way to consume but because they help provide an unusual ‘first-time’ experience,” the researchers write.