We’ll Always Have Paris: The Hedonic Payoff from Experiential and Material Investments

Published on Jan 1, 2015in Advances in Experimental Social Psychology
· DOI :10.1016/BS.AESP.2014.10.002
Thomas Gilovich74
Estimated H-index: 74
(Cornell University),
Amit Kumar9
Estimated H-index: 9
(Cornell University)
Abstract We live in a consumerist society in which large increases in wealth have not brought corresponding increases in well-being. This has led some to wonder if there are ways people might spend their limited discretionary income to get a better hedonic return on their money. Here we examine the perils of materialism and review a program of research that demonstrates that experiential purchases (such as vacations, concerts, and meals out) tend to bring more lasting happiness than material purchases (such as high-end clothing, jewelry, and electronic gadgets). Compared to possessions, experiences are less prone to hedonic adaptation, and we explore how and why the satisfaction they provide endures: by fostering successful social relationships, by becoming a more meaningful part of one's identity, by being less susceptible to unfavorable and unpleasant comparisons, and by not lending themselves to deflating regrets of action. We also discuss how these hedonic benefits extend to anticipation as well, although people do not always foresee that experiential consumption tends to provide more enduring satisfaction. We conclude by raising a number of questions about the distinction between experiences and material goods, about potential moderators and individual differences, and about how the overall well-being of society might be advanced by shifting from an overwhelmingly material economy to one that facilitates experiential consumption.
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