Friday, March 19, 2010

Happiness Is Experiences, Not Stuff

Rachael Rettner
LiveScience Staff Writer rachael Rettner
livescience Staff Writer – Fri Mar 5, 11:46 am ET
If you're trying to buy happiness, you'd be better off putting your money toward a tropical island get-away than a new computer, a new study suggests.

The results show that people's satisfaction with their life-experience purchases - anything from seeing a movie to going on a vacation - tends to start out high and go up over time. On the other hand, although they might be initially happy with that shiny new iPhone or the latest in fashion, their satisfaction with these items wanes with time.

The findings, based on eight separate studies, agree with previous research showing that experience-related buys lead to more happiness for the consumer. But the current work provides some insight into why.

Among the reasons:

People are more likely to mull over their material purchases than they are experiential ones, second-guessing themselves about whether they really made the best choice.
We tend to think of experiences more on their own terms, rather than in comparison with other things.
It's easier for us to decide on an experiential purchase than a material one.
We're more upset if we learn that someone else got a better deal, or that a better option exists, for a material purchase than for an experience-related one.

Satisfaction with a purchase could also come down to mindset. When participants in one study thought of material purchases, such as a music CD, as an experience (many hours of enjoyable listening), they were more satisfied than those who viewed the purchase as just a material item.

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This obviously applies to those with a certain minimum level of "stuff", such as food and shelter.

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