Consumer goods can't buy you happiness - experiences can
April 21, 2010
They say money can't buy you happiness, but if your money is spent on 'experiential purchases' and not consumer goods, then perhaps it can. Research from Cornell University has found that spending money on material goods only brings short term happiness, while experiences provide greater satisfaction long term.
When buying consumer goods, shoppers deliberate about their purchases, doubt their choices and agonize over missed deals, leading to less satisfaction overall. Experiences, however, are more easily decided upon because they meet a set of expectations, and are therefore less painstakingly weighed against other options. They are also highly subjective, and thus less likely to be compared in a negative light to other choices.
How a person views a purchase can also affect their satisfaction - for example, a person may see a box set of music materially, as a collection of CD's, or experientially, as hours of musical enjoyment.
Thomas Gilovich, Cornell University professor of psychology, and Travis J. Carter, Cornell Ph.D., published the paper “The Relative Relativity of Material and Experiential Purchases” in the January 2010 issue of the American Psychological Association’s Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. Carter is now conducting post-doctoral work at the University of Chicago. The National Science Foundation funded the research.