Shopping for happiness? Get a massage, forget the flat-screen TV

Mar 02, 2010

Money can't buy you love, but it can buy satisfaction - if you spend wisely.

Consumers found that with "experiential purchases" - from massages to family vacations - starts high and increases over time. In contrast, spending money on material things feels good at first, but actually makes people less happy in the end, says Thomas Gilovich, Cornell University professor of psychology and Travis J. Carter, Cornell Ph.D. '10.

When it comes to material things, Gilovich and Carter found often second-guess their original buying decisions, comparing what they bought to other people's purchases - or to better deals they missed.

But buying experiences provides greater satisfaction as time goes on, in part because of selective memory and because a consumer's experience is highly subjective, making it much harder to make negative comparisons. also find it easier to decide on experiences, on the first option that meets a set of expectations rather than painstakingly comparing all options.

Still, there is hope for makers of CDs and flat-screen televisions. The research found that how people view a purchase - as an expensive boxed-set or as hours of enjoyable music - also influenced their level of satisfaction.

Explore further: 3Qs: Citizen journalism in Ferguson

More information: The original paper, "The Relative Relativity of Material and Experiential Purchases," appeared in the January 2010 issue of the American Psychological Association's Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

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Nick1254367
not rated yet Mar 04, 2010
Hi,

interesting thoughts!

I believe it’s not possible to make a general statement on whether money makes people more or less happy. Money comes with a whole set of new elements that may have good or bad impact on our happiness, and depending on how susceptible we are to every one of them, the conclusion will go one way or the other (i.e. different from person to person).

I recently made an effort to provide a more comprehensive picture of what these ad- and disadvantages are. I invite you to have a look at Money and Happiness and tell me what you think!

Thank you,
Nick