Financial Capacity Decides Happiness Level From Purchased Experiences Material Items

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When people buy things they desire, they tend to feel happy about the effort. But does spending money can always increase the level of happiness? In a recent study, researchers found that it depends on their financial capacity and the type of things they actually buy. The study was conducted by researchers at Arizona State University, Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology, and the University of Southern California. Their findings revealed the levels of happiness between experiential and material purchases. Some people can feel happier with experiential purchases, while others feel more elated with material gains. They published the results in the journal Psychological Science.

Your Happiness from Purchases Depends on Wealth

There are two main things people can buy in life: experiences and material goods. Both of these purchases can provide happiness, yet the level of happiness will depend on their financial capacity. By default, wealthy people can buy nearly anything, while low-income individuals tend to be purchase things that fulfill their needs. So which of the two purchases can provide better happiness? In a series of experiments, researchers investigated the different levels of happiness in various situations that involved experiential and material purchases, and the overall purchasing capability of the buyer. Those who have a higher income are likely to feel happy when buying experiential purchases, such as a concert ticket or a vacation reservation, while those who have a lower income are likely to feel happy when buying material items, such as new clothes or a pair of shoes. “However, this simple answer to the question of how to best spend your money does not consider the huge economic disparities in our society. “We reasoned that the basic motives that shape consumer decisions would vary between higher-class and lower-class consumers.

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Thus, we anticipated that the degree of happiness obtained from different types of purchases would also vary by social class,” said Wendy Wood, an author of the study from the Department of Psychology at USC. Finding the Happiness Patterns in Different Social ClassesExperiential gains are purchases that yield more experiences, compared to material goods. So when a person buys a concert ticket of their favorite artist, the elation reward that comes with attending the event may surpass the level of happiness, compared to buying a new flagship smartphone. Additionally, that feeling may even last for a long period of time and the person will never question how much they have spent on it because it was worth it. But does it always work like what? Does wealth dictate the potential return of happiness in products or services people buy? In the first meta-analysis, the researchers looked into more than 20 studies to find the benefits of experiential purchases among college students, who were enrolled in either private or public learning institutions. Analysis showed that students with higher tuition costs and attended the private institutions had a better experiential advantage, compared to the students with lower tuition costs and had enrolled in public schools. This reflected that the social class of any individual regulates experiential advantage based on the limit of their financial capacity.

Next, they supervised another study that involved participants to remember recent purchases related to experiential and material items. Then, they asked them which of the two had made them feel happier. The participants of the higher social class reported feeling happier about their experiential purchases, while those of the lower social class felt happier from buying the material items. This reflected the similar aspects from the results of the meta-analysis. After that, they did another experiment and this time, the participants were randomly asked to recall either an experiential or material purchase. Those who had a higher income or had a bachelor’s felt happier with the experiential purchases. But those who had a lower income or had a high school degree felt happy with either the experiential gain or the material purchases. The results showed a variation of happiness from a purchased item in the lower social class. In the final experiment, the researchers asked the participants with the same question about the happiness returns of recent purchases.

However, the participants did not have to have a lower income capacity. Results unveiled that those who imagined that their monthly income had dropped by 50 percent felt a similar degree of happiness from both experiential and material purchases. On the other hand, those who imagined having an increased 50 percent on their monthly income had better happiness returns from experiential purchases. The results reflected that experiential advantage could be influenced by the person’s mindset about their financial capacity, even if there was a short-lived change in the situation. When the researchers compared the patterns from the results to several factors, including subjective judgments and educational background, the patterns remain the same. The main driving force of happiness when buying a product or a service is still greatly influenced by available resources.

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Financial Capacity Decides Happiness Level From Purchased Experiences Material Items. (2020, July 15). WritingBros. Retrieved October 28, 2020, from
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