Researchers have learned that purchasing items for others will not make you happier if it is only meant to impress the other party.
However, buying items that are associated with life experiences, rather than material possessions, can provide the gift-giver satisfaction if the individual is sincere in his or her desire and purpose.
In a new study, San Francisco State University researchers learned that consumers can gain greater happiness from buying life experiences such as concert tickets or an exotic vacation, but only if they choose the gift for the right reasons.
“Why you buy is just as important as what you buy,” said Ryan Howell, Ph.D.,assistant professor of psychology at SFSU.
“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 expands Howell’s previous findings which suggested people can satisfy needs to be self-directed, competent and connected to others by giving a gift related to a life experience.
The satisfaction garnered from the action fulfills psychological needs that are vital for human growth and well-being.
In the current study, researchers surveyed 241 participants and found that a person’s motivation for making a purchase predicts whether these needs will be met.
Investigators discovered people who choose to buy life experiences because it is in line with their desires, interests and values reported a greater sense of fulfillment and well-being. They felt more autonomous, competent and connected to others, less loneliness and a greater sense of vitality.
Individuals who choose life experiences to gain recognition from others reported feeling less autonomous, competent and connected to others.
“The biggest question you have to ask yourself is why you are buying something,” Howell said. “Motivation appears to amplify or eliminate the happiness effect of a purchase.”
The study can be found online in the Journal of Happiness Studies.
Source: San Francisco State University