For Fear of Being Judged, People Resist Having Experiences Alone

Researchers make a case for why you should go to the movies alone. They say you'll have just as much fun as if you went with a group — don't miss out on life just because you can't find someone to go with you.

People don't like going to a movie or dinner alone — I've done it, and found the experience to be quite freeing. Indeed, there's nothing wrong with it, but when I tell my friends it's OK to go to events alone, they become frozen by the thought of others judging them — thinking they couldn't find any friends to accompany them is a strong deterrent for missing out on an experience. But these same people will often go to a coffee shop alone to type on their laptop or read a book, and yet these fears of judgment don't apply in these scenarios. Why?


Jesse Singal from NYMag writes on a study, co-authored by Rebecca Ratner and Rebecca Hamilton of the University of Maryland and Georgetown business schools that answers just this question. Through a series of surveys and experiments, they consistently found that “[c]onsumers worry that if they engage in activities alone, observers will infer that they could not find friends to accompany them.”

Watch our expert Sherry Turkle discuss the value of solitude:

The only comfort to going into situations alone was to introduce things “that reduce the degree to which an activity is perceived as hedonic (e.g., reading a book while at a coffee shop) or reduce the anticipated number of observers [which increased] interest in engaging in public activities alone.” It's astounding to think that working on that screenplay in a coffee shop acts as a metal barrier toward fears of judgment. When most of us regularly make jokes about people who work on their laptop in a coffee shop (something I'm guilty of on both counts).

Ratner explained in an interview with NYMag:

“So many people are getting married later or are in dual-career families where one person is watching the kids at night. You can’t always be going out with people.”  

But the second half of people's fear in going to an event alone is that they'll have less fun, which just isn't true. In one of her experiments, the researchers recruited students on campus — some alone, some with a group — to come to an art gallery for five to 10 minutes. The unknowing participants were asked if they expected to have fun. Unsurprisingly, the people going it alone anticipated having a worse time than those accompanied by a group. But when they gave an exit rating for their experience, the people going solo had no less fun than those going with a group.

The researchers write that this experiment “provides empirical support for a key premise of our investigation: Consumers who forego hedonic activities alone are missing out on opportunities for rewarding experiences.”

Even with this information at hand, the idea of going to a restaurant without work or a book in-hand seems a bit off to me. But just keep in mind that going to events alone opens up the opportunity to meet new people.

Read more at NYMag.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Getty Images
Sponsored by Charles Koch Foundation
  • Human beings are psychologically hardwired to fear differences
  • Several recent studies show evidence that digital spaces exacerbate the psychology which contributes to tribalism
  • Shared experiences of awe, such as space travel, or even simple shared meals, have surprising effectives for uniting opposing groups
Keep reading Show less

10 common traits of self-actualized people

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs is updated for the 21st century in a new study.

Pixabay
Mind & Brain
  • Maslow's famous "Hierarchy of Needs" describes different levels of human motivation.
  • A new study updates the hierarchy through modern methods.
  • The research shows that self-actualized people share 10 specific traits.
Keep reading Show less

10 philosophy books to develop a diverse metaphysical perspective

There are many ways to posit the fundamental nature of reality.

Mind & Brain
  • After thousands of years, and an infinite amount of novel experiences, there are today many dueling schools of philosophical thought.
  • A great philosophical background takes into account a number of metaphysical positions and ideas.
  • These 10 philosophy books all take on the questions of existence in a unique and varied manner.
Keep reading Show less

How sexual fantasies affect your relationship

There are two main types of sexual fantasies. One, however, is more destructive than the other.

Sex & Relationships
  • There are two main types of sexual fantasies.
  • One of them is more harmful to the a relationship or marriage than the other (by a lot).
  • Sexually fantasizing about somebody else, though, neither hurts a relationship nor helps it; instead, it has the same mental impact as random daydreaming.
Keep reading Show less