-*Does acquiring possessions lead to happiness and satisfaction?
“Not so much,” according to University of Colorado’s Leaf Van Boven and Thomas Gilovich of Cornell, who reported that material purchases are less satisfying than experiential purchases.
They suggest that experiences make people happier because experiences are:
- Subject to positive reinterpretation
- Central to one’s identity
- More positively valued by others as having “social value.”
Gilovich collaborated with Travis Carter of University of Chicago to survey diverse respondents from various demographic groups.
These two cross-sections of the public reported that purchases to acquire a life experience made them happier than “hedonic” or “utilitarian” material purchases.
In Gilovich and Carter’s related lab experiment, volunteers said they had more positive feelings after recalling an experiential purchase than after thinking about a material purchase.
Participants also expected that experiences would make them happier than material possessions when they adopted a future, “big picture” perspective in contrast to a present-oriented view.
This finding echoes Eunice Kim Cho and team’s decision-making conclusions highlighted in the last blog post, Reframing Non-Comparable Choices to Make Them Simpler, More Satisfying
Volunteers reported that material purchases are less satisfying because they can lead to focusing on unchosen options, and comparing to other people’s choices, which contributes to doubt and rumination about alternate choices.
In addition, most people “maximize” when they make material purchases in an exhaustive, time-consuming process of considering all possible options, then selecting the optimal-seeming alternative.
In contrast, most people “satisfice” when selecting experiences by setting a minimum standard for decision quality, then selecting the first option.
This more rapid approach typically leads to less regret.
People who strongly agree with statements like “Some of the most important achievements in life include acquiring material possessions” and “Buying things gives me a lot of pleasure” report lower levels of life satisfaction according to York University’s Russell Belk as well as to University of Missouri’s Marsha Richins and Scott Dawson of Portland State University, in separate studies.
Many people intuitively sense that possessions don’t buy happiness, and these studies confirm that life experiences tend to be more satisfying than material objects.
-*How do you choose among “utilitarian” items, experiences, and “hedonic” possessions when making purchases?
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- Reframing Non-Comparable Choices to Make Them Simpler, More Satisfying
- Consider All Your Options at Once, Be Happier with Choices: Minimize “Quest for the Best” Bias
- Decision Maximizers, Satisficers and Potential Bias
- “Productive Pause”, Intuition for Better Decisions|
- Overcoming Decision Bias: Allure of “Availability Heuristic”, “Primacy Effect”
- Human Decision Biases Modeled with Automatons
- Detect and Mitigate Decision Biases
- How Well Do Today’s Career Choices Endure Over Time?
Blog: – Kathryn Welds | Curated Research and Commentary
LinkedIn Open Group Psychology in Human Resources (Organisational Psychology)
Interesting post. However, it is also possible to do comparison and ‘buyer’s remorse” of experiences. Sometimes, when I’ve planned and gone on a vacation, I’m wondering if I made the right choice to go to this destination as opposed to another. The first couple days of our trip this summer to Ireland, I was definitely in an evaluation mode to see if it stacked up well against other trips. After a couple days, I was satisfied that it was a good choice and I need have no buyer’s remorse.
I’m generally not materialistic, but I do collect a certain type of glass bottle. A couple years ago, I came across two of them in an antique shop and bought them. I have not experienced much hedonic adaptation. I’m still quite tickled to have found them.
So it may have something to do with the uniqueness of the experience or of the possession, which produces a sense of novelty.
Thanks so much, Rick, for taking time to share your thoughtful analysis of buyer’s remorse for experiential purchases.
This is an important point because it’s likely that few purchases are immune to potential “second-guessing” and decision re-evaluation.
Thanks, too, for the introduction to your work on humanism and mindfulness, which are directly related to the social science research mentioned in “Buying Happiness.”
I hope you’ll provide comments to future posts from this valuable perspective.
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