Collective Satiation: How Coexperience Accelerates a Decline in Hedonic Judgments

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Individuals often mutually experience a stimulus with a relationship partner or social group (e.g., snacking with friends). Yet, little is currently understood about how a sense of coexperiencing affects hedonic judgments of experiences that unfold over time. Research on the shared attention state has suggested that hedonic judgments are intensified when individuals coexperience a stimulus (vs. experiencing it alone), and other related work has found that the social environment influences hedonic judgments in shared (vs. solo) experiences. Although this past work has focused on judgments of single instances of a stimulus, the present work examines how coexperience affects hedonic judgments of stimuli over time. This work documents the ‘collective satiation effect’ wherein satiation—a diminished enjoyment of pleasant stimuli with repeated experience—is accelerated by a sense of coexperiencing the stimulus with others. We propose that this happens because shared attention makes the repetitive nature of the experience more salient, by promoting and incorporating thoughts of others also repeatedly having the same shared experience. Five studies document the collective satiation effect, support the proposed mechanism, and show moderators of the effect. Taken together, this research contributes to an understanding of how the social environment influences the experience of hedonic stimuli, which has broad implications for the value individuals place on the time that they spend with others.

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