Picture this: It’s 1999 and you’re on your way to see a movie that you’re told has an absolutely mind-blowing surprise ending.
You feel like it’s some big secret the way everyone talks covertly about it and you’re shamelessly excited about the whole thing.
You finally arrive and meet up with your friends to get tickets.
It’s a pretty crowded night out so you wait in line patiently as All Star by Smash Mouth plays from overhead. But then… tragedy strikes
A man walking out of the theatre mutters audibly to his friend, “…yeah, I know! I just can’t believe Bruce Willis was dead the whole time.”
“Nooo! You terrorist!”, you imagine to yourself, pointing and screaming in your head. But you just stand there, shell-shocked with a blank face.
The line keeps moving forward but you don’t even budge. A friend finally pulls you by your arms up to the ticket booth, each one unaware of the devastation that just occurred.
So, what would you do at this point?
Would you tell your friends exactly what just happened?
Would you tell them that Bruce Willis is dead from the get-go?
Of course you wouldn’t. You’re no monster, after all. They’re your friends and you wouldn’t want to destroy their experience that way.
You are aware that informing them of what to expect can spoil the fun of it unfolding right before their eyes.
It seems like we know all about this fact of life when it comes to suspenseful movies or books.
But research over recent years has shown that this same concept applies to all new experiences.
You may think it’s rather common or harmless to ask your neighbor Sally about all the cruises she has been on if you’re just planning your first. You may even ask someone who has been on the same ship what their experience was like.
“Intuitively, one might expect such information would have a positive effect. However, our results reveal a more insidious effect”, a 2015 article published in the Journal of Consumer Psychology explains (Goode, Hart & Thomson).
What’s behind all this?
‘Affective adaptation’ (read about the Hedonic Treadmill) is a process that causes you to be less responsive to certain experiences after one or more exposures to them and this is mostly to blame for the effect.
The ‘attention principle’ accounts for the rest of the insidious effect that your neighbors reminiscing will have on your trip. This principle asserts that experiences have a greater emotional impact when they grab your attention as if they were new…
But when you’re on the same ship Sally was telling you about, the small things that are really interesting about the ship are already known to you.
The joy of saying, “Oh honey look at that, how cool” has been annihilated by sweet hearted, well-meaning Sally.
Alright, so how bad is this whole thing really?
It depends how close of a relationship you have to the person you ask!
The research has shown that swapping stories with ‘close ties’ spoils the adventure much more so than chatting with a stranger. The reasoning behind this also has two parts:
1) Your close friend knows what you like and what to point out about the whole experience that involves your tastes.
2) You have a close bond with your friend so you know their point of view on things, you trust their information, and you remember their advice more readily.
Unfortunately, they may have just crept some information in about your upcoming trip that can erode some of the most fun parts.
Your best bet…
When it comes to things to prepare for, yes, you should share and seek that information.
Knowing that you can bring a couple 12-packs of Diet Coke aboard can save you some real money.
Knowing about proper tipping can save you from being a real jerk.
And knowing where not to travel while at port can save you from being in real danger.
But when it comes to those neat little surprises you find on the way, the best things on the menu, or even opinions on which shows to skip, it’s best to tune out!
If someone starts to go on about your trip to come just say, “Hold up! I don’t wanna ruin any of the surprise.” Most people will understand and you can look forward to happy cruising knowing that you can expect some exciting surprises ahead.