Gus Cooney.

The novelty penalty: Why do people like talking about new experiences but hearing about old ones


Cooney, G.
Gilbert, D. T.
Wilson, T. D.


Cooney, G., Gilbert, D. T., & Wilson, T. D. (2017). The novelty penalty: why do people like talking about new experiences but hearing about old ones? Psychological Science,28,380-394.

Much of the conversation is devoted to the sharing of novel experiences—experiences that the speaker has had but that his or her listeners have not—cities they have never visited, books they have never read, or foods they have not tasted. Novel experiences are potentially more interesting than familiar experiences, but they are also more difficult to convey to others because listeners lack the background knowledge needed to fill the “informational gaps” inherent in speech.

In a series of experiments published in Psychological Science(Cooney, Gilbert, & Wilson, 2017), we showed that people underestimate the difficulty of communicating novel experiences and therefore overestimate how much their conversation partners will enjoy hearing about them. Telling novel stories can have both benefits and costs and although the potential benefit of being interesting is obvious to speakers, the potential costs of being confusing are more difficult to anticipate.

Interests & hobbies

Embarking on adventures through skiing, immersing myself in diverse cultures through rugs and textiles, and finding serenity in the art of surfing – these are the passion that shape my life.