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Examining The Entourage Effect

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

NPR's Shankar Vedantam regularly comes in to talk about social science research. He's here now for a brief chat about a phenomenon he's going to introduce us to. It's called the entourage effect. What is it, Shankar?

SHANKAR VEDANTAM, BYLINE: Well, lots of institutions, David - sports teams, universities, even public radio stations - they like to give perks their supporters. Political campaigns do this all the time. They reward supporters with access to events, and they give tickets and other kinds of freebies.

Now, a lot of people are happy with the perks. But it turns out there may be a way to make your biggest supporters even happier - to help them distinguish themselves from all the other supporters of your campaign or your public radio station. Brent McFerran at the University of Michigan and Jennifer Argo at the University of Alberta recently found that if you allow fans and supporters to bring their own guests or friends to events, to show up with an entourage, it greatly boosts the satisfaction of the person that you're trying to please.

GREENE: Interesting. So let's say I'm performing in a concert, which is very unlikely. But if I were, I would give...

VEDANTAM: I would come to that concert, David.

GREENE: (Laughter). I'm sure you would. I would say, Shankar, I can give you four free tickets. You can bring your friends. Is it a matter of you being able to then, like, look powerful, like you're an insider to your friends?

VEDANTAM: I think that's certainly a part of it. You know, when I can bring my friends to an event, my satisfaction now is not just in attending the concert and hearing you sing, David, but it's also telling my friends, look, I'm a powerful and influential person, and that makes me feel good.

There's also perhaps a more innocent explanation. You know, when good things happen to us, those things feel better when we can experience them with friends. So having an entourage increases the social dimension of the perk, and that's what might be boosting our satisfaction.

GREENE: I think I like the innocent explanation more than the selfish one.

VEDANTAM: I think the selfish one is probably true, David.

GREENE: It's a shame. Shankar, thanks as always.

VEDANTAM: Thank you, David.

GREENE: That's NPR's Shankar Vedantam. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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