Study Reveals Buying Things Makes You Happy
If you are in a panic about last-minute holiday gifts, it might be worth bearing in mind that material things actually can bring happiness.
If you are in a panic about last-minute holiday gifts, it might be worth bearing in mind that material things actually can bring happiness according to a new study by Canadian researchers.
In the recent study, published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science, the team of researchers from the University of British Columbia asked a group of participants to record feelings of happiness that material and experiential purchases gave them in the weeks following their purchase.
Material purchases were items such as reindeer leggings, portable speakers, or coffee makers. Experiences purchased in the study included skiing trips, tickets to a hockey game, or spa gift cards.
The results showed that both purchases gave happiness, but while material purchases brought repeated feelings of happiness over time, experiences brought a more intense, but shorter feeling of happiness. However researchers also found that when participants looked back on their purchases six weeks after Christmas, it was the experiences that gave them more satisfaction.
Commenting on the results, Aaron Weidman, one of the co-authors of the study said, “The decision of whether to buy a material thing or a life experience may therefore boil down to what kind of happiness one desires. Consider a holiday shopper deciding between tickets to a concert or a new couch in the living room. The concert will provide an intense thrill for one spectacular night, but then it will end, and will no longer provide momentary happiness, aside from being a happy memory. In contrast, the new couch will never provide a thrilling moment to match the concert, but will keep the owner snug and comfortable each day throughout the winter months.”
Another study however, by a team of researchers from The San Francisco State University, found that due in part to personal preferences for a certain type of purchase, some shoppers, whether they purchase material items or experiences, will still be no happier than they were before the purchase.
In their study, published last year in the Journal of Research in Personality, the team found that the happiness gained from a purchase is influenced by the type of buyer that the person is, and if a material buyer purchases a life experience they will not feel any happier because the purchase is not something they enjoy and fails to reflect their interests or personality.
However if they purchase the material items that they like, they also won’t feel happy because others may criticize or look down upon their choices, so in either situation no happiness is gained.
The researchers did find however, that material buyers feel closer to friends or family following an experiential purchase, but that feeling of closeness was not enough to counter the lack of identity expression and therefore give the buyer a happiness boost.
Going against the widely accepted belief that experiences bring more happiness than material things, “The results show it is not correct to say to everyone, ‘If you spend money on life experiences you’ll be happier,’ because you need to take into account the values of the buyer,” commented Jia Wei Zhang, the lead author of that study.