You’ve probably heard by now that research consistently shows people get more happiness from spending their money on experiences than on things.
Concert tickets: yes. New shirt for concert: no.
(If this is news to you, check out Dr. Miriam Tatzel’s presentation about the relationship between materialism and happiness.)
Thanks to new research, we can add another reason to the argument against buying “stuff”: It’s more fun to look forward to having an experience than a thing.
This finding comes from post-doctoral scholar Matthew A. Killingsworth of the University of California, Berkeley, and UC San Francisco, and doctoral student Amit Kumar and psychology researcher Thomas Gilovich, both of Cornell University.
Their recent paper, published in “Psychological Science,” found that in terms of happiness, experiences outrank things even before you spend money on either. Anticipating an experience, the researchers saw, brought more happiness than anticipating buying a material item.
Between four studies, ranging from paging over 2,200 adults via iPhone to analysing newspaper coverage of people waiting in lines (people waiting for experiences were “better behaved”), the researchers found that not only do people enjoy anticipating experiences over objects, but they enjoy looking forward to those experiences more than anticipating nothing in particular.
Why? Here are the researchers’ speculations, as explained in a press release:
People may think about future experiences in more abstract ways that can make them seem more significant and more gratifying, for example. It’s also possible that waiting for an experience induces less competition than waiting for material goods. Finally, anticipating experiences may confer greater social benefits, making people feel more connected and happier overall.
The best part? Looking forward to a concert, trip, lakeside run, or new movie doesn’t cost a single extra buck.
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