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Social connection can be a rich source of happiness. Humans routinely go out of their way to seek out social connection and avoid social isolation. However, research has yet to explain the proximal forces that motivate people to share experiences with others. Here we used a novel experience-sharing and decision-making paradigm to understand the value of shared experiences. In seven experiments, across Studies 1 and 2, participants demonstrated a strong motivation to engage in shared experiences. At the same time, participants did not experience a commensurate increase in hedonic value or emotional amplification, suggesting that the social value of shared experiences does not derive from their hedonic value. In Study 3 we measured participants’ beliefs about the reasons people engage in shared experiences. Participants reported being motivated by the desire to forge a social connection; they did not report being motivated by the emotional benefits of a shared experience. Together, these findings suggest that the desire to share an experience may be distinct from the subjective experience of achieving that state. Individuals are driven to connect with others even when the act of doing so is no more enjoyable or emotionally evocative.
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