Buying life experiences to impress others removes happiness boost

Elaine Bible
EurekAlert

SF State study suggests consumer motivation affects happiness gained from experiential purchases.

Spending money on activities and events, such as concert tickets or exotic vacations, won’t make you happier if you’re doing it to impress others, according to findings published in the Journal of Happiness Studies.

Research has shown that consumers gain greater happiness from buying life experiences rather than material possessions, but only if they choose experiences for the right reasons says the new study.

“Why you buy is just as important as what you buy,” said Ryan Howell, assistant professor of psychology at San Francisco State University. “When people buy life experiences to impress others, it wipes out the well-being they receive from the purchase. That extrinsic motivation appears to undermine how the experiential purchase meets their key psychological needs.”

The study builds on Howell’s previous findings, which suggest that people who buy life experiences are happier because experiential purchasing helps fulfill psychological needs that are vital for human growth and well-being. These include the need to feel competent, autonomous — or self-directed — and connected to others.

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