To view the original article on By SARAH GRIFFITHS FOR MAILONLINE (9 April 2015) click here
Aristotle said that ‘men fancy that external goods are the cause of happiness [but] leisure of itself gives pleasure and happiness and enjoyment in life.’ Now psychologists have proved the Greek philosopher right, by confirming that splashing your cash on designer clothes or the latest gadgets might give you instant gratification, but it’s experiences that will make you happier in the long-run.
Scientists claim that splashing your cash on designer clothes or the latest gadgets might give you instant gratification, but it’s experiences that will make you happier in the long-run
Previous research had found that money can buy happiness, to an extent. It may seem logical that a physical possession, such as the latest TV, might make people happy in the long-term because it lasts longer than a brief. But researchers at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, found the opposite is true, because we adapt to new, material creature comforts and take them for granted. This phenomenon known as the Easterlin paradox. Dr Thomas Gilovich, a psychology professor at Cornell University, told Fast Company that new things are only exciting and pleasing at first, while learning a new skill or travelling is more rewarding overall.
While it may seem logical that physical possessions such as new clothes might make people happy in the long-term – because they lasts longer than a brief holiday – researchers found the opposite is true, because we adapt to new, material goods quickly and then take them for granted
ANTICIPATION ADDS TO HAPPINESS
Anticipating future experiences, as well as remembering past times, makes us happy, Dr Gilovich’s colleague Amit Kumar told The Atlantic. The researchers found that people enjoy shopping for holidays or booking a restaurant, for example, more than buying physical goods because of the anticipation. And perhaps surprisingly, the act of queuing for a lesson or to eat somewhere new, adds to how enjoyable an experience is. This may be because the abstract nature of a future experience makes it seem more pleasurable. ‘You sometimes hear stories about people rioting, smashing windows, pepper-spraying one another, or otherwise treating others badly when they have to wait,’ Dr Kumar said. ‘Our work shows that this kind of behaviour is much more likely in instances where people are waiting to acquire a possession than when they’re waiting for tickets to a performance or to taste the offerings at their city’s newest food truck.’
In an experiment, people were asked to report their happiness after buying new products or experiences. At first, happiness levels were about the same, but over time, their satisfaction with products slipped, while the memories of the experiences they had, made them happier.
The experts even found that experiences that made people unhappy at the time, such as an uncomfortable camping trip for example, still gave them happy memories. Dr Gilovich said this may be because stressful, unpleasant or scary experiences can be turned into funny stories with time, or reviewed as valuable learning experiences. They also found that shared experiences connect humans more than shared material goods, such as a flash new car, which a whole family can use.
A previous study revealed that people are less likely to get negatively competitive about experiences they share with others than possessions, where the conversation can easily change to who has the larger television, or newer smartphone. Dr Gilovich commented: ‘The tendency of keeping up with the Joneses tends to be more pronounced for material goods than for experiential purchases.’