Posted by Neha Jindal on April 12, 2010

Researchers at Cornell University, New York and University of Colorado (CU), Boulder, U.S., established that what makes people happy is spending money on enjoying their lives to the fullest than splurging on owning things.

Lead researcher and assistant professor of psychology at CU, Leaf Van Boven said, “We found that people receive more enduring pleasure and satisfaction from investing in life experiences than material possessions.”

Details of the study
The research was conducted by Harris Interactive on behalf of Northwestern Mutual Financial Network and involved over 12,000 Americans from various walks of life.

Researchers conducted a series of longitudinal surveys with the subjects to determine what was more important to them--experiencing happiness by way of an event or a material purchase.

For better evaluation of results, the research team conducted a follow-up study on undergraduate students and asked them the same question.

Results of the study
Analysis revealed that people felt happier by spending in life experiences than in material goods.

In the follow-up laboratory experiment with students, researchers found that they experienced more upbeat feelings after pondering over an experiential purchase than a material acquisition.

Van Boven suggested three probable reasons that ‘experiential purchases’--made with the intention of attaining a life experience, make people happier than material possessions.

That experiences bring more delight to people than materialistic things as they are open to positive exposition and connected more to deeper personal meanings, was the first reason.

Possessions, conversely, are always separate from our personality.

Also, they are a consequential part of one’s identity and thirdly, they contribute toward building more successful relationships on the social front.

Other findings
Study collaborator, Professor Thomas Gilovich, Cornell University said, “Your experiences are inherently less comparative.”

“If you go on a hiking trip, and the weather is terrible, you might not view it as a pleasurable experience in the here and now. Instead, you may view it as a challenge, and over time remember the positive aspects of the experience more than the negative aspects,” stated Gilovich.

“With material things you can’t do this, because they are what they are,” added the researcher.

“Furthermore, we often share stories about experiences because they’re more fun to talk about than material possessions. They are simply more entertaining,” Van Boven stated.

The study appears in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

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