Acquiring experiences, not possessions, key to real happiness

February 9th, 2009 - 4:41 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, Feb 9 (IANS) Acquiring experiences rather than material possessions is the key to greater happiness for both the consumer and those around them, according to a study.

For example, experiential purchases result in increased well-being because they satisfy higher order needs, specifically the need for social connectedness and vitality — a feeling of being alive.

“These findings support an extension of basic need theory, where purchases that increase psychological need satisfaction will produce the greatest well-being,” said Ryan Howell, assistant professor of psychology, San Francisco State University.

Participants were asked to write reflections and answer questions about their recent purchases. They indicated that experiential purchases represented money better spent and greater happiness for both themselves and others.

The results also indicate that experiences produce more happiness regardless of the amount spent or the income of the consumer.

Experiences also lead to longer-term satisfaction. “Purchased experiences provide memory capital,” Howell said. “We don’t tend to get bored of happy memories like we do with a material object,” he added, according to a San Francisco release.

“People still believe that more money will make them happy, even though 35 years of research has suggested the opposite,” Howell said. “Maybe this belief has held because money is making some people happy some of the time, at least when they spend it on life experiences.”

The findings were presented at the Society for Personality and Social Psychology annual meeting last Saturday.

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