The happiness derived from a vacation or adventure lasts longer than the happiness that comes from a big purchase, a new study shows.
A recent Spectrem survey of affluent investor’s shows that a majority of them do not believe money can buy happiness.
Now, a study published in Psychological Science says that happiness comes more often from life experiences than from purchases.
Researchers from Cornell University took the emotional pulse of 100 college students and 2,200 adults selected randomly and asked them how they felt prior to purchasing experiences (like concert tickets or plane tickets for a vacation) versus purchasing material items. The results of the research showed that the anticipation of experiences led to more happiness than the anticipation of material acquisitions.
“Consumers derive value from anticipation, and that value tends to be greater for experiential than for material purchases,’’ the study abstract states.
“I think one aspect of that has to do with the nature of imagination,’’ said Cornell doctoral student of psychology Amit Kumar, who worked on the study, in an interview with National Public Radio. While a consumer knows what they are getting with a material purchase, a new experience has so many variables that a great sense of pleasure is achieved.
The study is titled “Waiting for Merlot: Anticipatory Consumption of Experiential and Material purchases”.
A persona’s relationship with money also plays a role. Material purchases often carry the added burden of maintaining an image, known in colloquial terms as “Keeping up with the Jones.” Experiential purchases are less competitive, allowing for a freer sense of enjoyment.
Also, experiential purchases are easily shared with others having the same experience. Material purchases are less social. Kumar pointed to the difference between standing in line to buy concert tickets with other fans of a musical act versus standing in line to purchase the latest version of a smartphone. The first is considered to be a more enjoyable and social experience than the second.
A similar study performed by researchers at San Francisco State University in 2009 found that people derived more immediate happiness from experiential purchases than material ones and that the happiness created by the purchase lasted longer.