According to new research, you’re better off buying the flowers if you want to play it safe this Valentine’s Day.

As we noted yesterday in the news, researchers from the University of Texas found that bad shared experiences — such as eating out, seeing a concert or play, or even going on vacation — stay with us a lot longer than receiving a “bad” gift (think “toaster” instead of “diamond”).

But is this any surprise to anyone? Experiences enter into our long-term memory, whether they’re bad or good, while material gifts often do not. And while a thoughtful gift may make us smile, a memorable vacation to France or Alaska is going to stick with most people longer. A shared experience is really the making of hundreds of memories at a time, while a gift makes only one. So if your shared experience has 80 bad memories and 20 good ones, compared to one bad memory of a gift, you can see which one is going to take up more of our space for memories.

The good news is the flip side is also true — share a wonderful, exhilarating and memorable experience, and it’s going to mean a lot more 20 years from now than when you bought your loved one that diamond-encrusted piece of jewelry.

But life is short. Take the risk. Enjoy your time with your special someone and focus on creating dozens of new memories with a shared experience rather than (or in addition to) a simple gift. After all, there is no greater gift you can give in this life than your time (even a rich person has the same amount of time as you and I).

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Read the full article: Is Happiness Tied to Emotions or Material Gifts?



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    Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 16 Feb 2009
    Published on All rights reserved.

APA Reference
Grohol, J. (2009). Are You Better Off Buying Flowers or Dinner?. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 24, 2014, from


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