Apparently You Can Buy Your Happiness, But There’s A Catch

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According to a new study, conducted by researchers at University of British Columbia, material gifts produce more prolonged happiness, than joyous experiences.

In the study, researcher gave one group of participants $20 to spend on either a material gift or an experience, like a concert, trip or sporting event.

The other group’s members were told to simply recall a material or experiential gift they received for Christmas.

All participants were then instructed to write down how their overall senses of happiness changed each day in the weeks after they received their gifts.

Researchers discovered those who received material gifts, such as skateboards and articles of clothing, had more consistent levels of happiness during the weeks after the gifts were given.

Recipients of experiential gifts appear to have experienced the peak amounts of happiness out of all participants. However researchers saw the joys of these experiences faded.

In contrast, recipients of material gifts constantly revisited the happiness of first receiving their gifts as they continued to use them.

Aaron Weidman, researcher at University of British Columbia said,

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.

So, when deciding what kind of gift to get someone, Weidman suggested, you should consider whether the recipient would prefer a limited but overwhelming feeling of happiness or smaller doses of happiness over a longer period of time.


This study was originally published in Social Psychological & Personality Science.

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