don't explain the good things, but definitely explain the bad things
April 30, 2012 10:32 AM   Subscribe

"Sarah Moore researches how word-of-mouth stories affect our feelings about our experiences, and she has found that our feelings change when we share them. She says that when the storyteller analyzes or thinks about an emotional experience like a family vacation, it reduces the emotions, positive or negative, about the event. However, she notes that for practical experiences, such as buying and using a USB stick, analyzing and thinking more about the experience will amplify our feelings about it, be they positive or negative." (via bakadesuyo)

She says that when we have an emotional experience, such as travelling or watching a movie, we develop feelings about those experiences. When telling stories about these experiences later, we can describe them and express our appreciation or dislike for them -- but once we start to analyze them, the lustre of that emotion fades.

Moore says it is similar to work that clinical psychologists have done to help people overcome traumatic experiences by analyzing and processing them. Thus, thinking about a negative experience may mean giving that restaurant with bad service a second try. But for positive experiences, the best thing is not to think too much...

On the other hand, Moore says... "For cognitive experiences, if we think about those, if we analyze and rationalize them, it actually amplifies our feelings," she said. "We're figuring things out. We're becoming more certain and more extreme in our opinions."


Why Does Explaining Why a Cupcake Is Delicious Make Us Love It Less? from October 2011

Some Things Are Better Left Unsaid: How Word of Mouth Influences the Storyteller
published in the Journal of Consumer Research, April 2012 (restricted access)

Moore's 2009 dissertation, on the same topic, is available here.
posted by flex (7 comments total) 29 users marked this as a favorite

 
w/r/t vacation or holiday experiences, I wonder what the effect of revisiting photographs (without either a verbal or internal monologue) has, if any? So many people are photo-documenting, myself included, and a lot of us just slap the photos somewhere to share without adding commentary. You'd hope that'd help preserve it or seeing it would elicit some of the original feelings, though revisiting it could easily diminish it over time... I read a study somewhere that the more one revisits a memory the less 'pure' it is as the gaps in our memory are replaced by whatever our brain feels makes sense, and over time it may no longer be accurate. Anyway. I can't help but wonder.
posted by six-or-six-thirty at 10:53 AM on April 30, 2012 [3 favorites]


...for practical experiences, such as buying and using a USB stick, analyzing and thinking more about the experience will amplify our feelings about it, be they positive or negative.

So "unboxing" videos are ideal for people who want to make a mountain out of a molehill? Sounds about right.
posted by DU at 11:00 AM on April 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


I, however, have an uncanny ability to TMI people to death. :) Describing that xyz medical experience doesn't lose it's touch.
posted by stormpooper at 11:33 AM on April 30, 2012


I'm still reading the article, but I feel like there's probably a median level of emotional involvement that is realistic for an experience which you've fully analysed. Workaday things like buying a USB stick and rose-tinted memories which are more story than truth are both things which deviate from that level because you're not looking directly at them. Being forced to inspect them enough to relate them to someone else forces you to realign with a more realistic amount of emotion.
posted by lucidium at 3:42 PM on April 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


On the other hand, Moore says... "For cognitive experiences, if we think about those, if we analyze and rationalize them, it actually amplifies our feelings," she said. "We're figuring things out. We're becoming more certain and more extreme in our opinions."

I found this very true back in the days when I was reviewing books and films for a job - and even now when I just casually review on LibraryThing. A text that produced a mild reaction in me either way would become - in the course of writing a review - somewhat polarised. In my effort to articulate what I responded to, I would tease out these ethereal half-notions, then apply words to them like so many layers of shellac, turning something diaphonous into something solid, almost tactile.

What relationship do these new-birthed opinions have to the nascent emotions that begat them? Precious little, sometimes. It's interesting to start a review with an affable, almost languid attitude towards a text only to find the kiln of your words firing it into bitter censure, or generous rhapsody.
posted by smoke at 4:45 PM on April 30, 2012


Huh, I wonder if/how this is linked to the studies about how Facebook makes people unhappy.
posted by restless_nomad at 6:10 PM on April 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


This is super interesting.

But usually, when people are talking about stuff, they aren't just talking to walls. They're talking to another person. Even though sharing a "hedonic experience" might dampen our feelings toward that experience, what about what happens when the listen responds? Do we sacrifice strong feelings towards experiences in order to bond with other people? And (how) does hearing a response about a shared experience change our feelings?

Also, what about people whose feelings towards a particular object are different from others'? If I have a very utilitarian view towards food, will I strengthen my emotions towards that food by talking about it when the reverse happens for most people?
posted by meows at 6:59 AM on May 1, 2012


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