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Is Happiness Tied to Emotions or Material Gifts?

With Valentine’s Day approaching, does it matter whether you give your loved one a material gift or an experience for Valentine’s Day?

Researchers at The University of Texas at Austin’s McCombs School of Business and Washington University in St. Louis explain that past research has shown that opting for shared experiences (such as vacations and theatre tickets) will lead to more long-term happiness than will buying material goods.

However, new research to be published in a forthcoming issue of the Journal of Consumer Research shows that sometimes experiences can backfire.

The research was co-authored by Leonardo Nicolao and Julie Irwin of the McCombs School of Business and Joseph K. Goodman of Washington University in St. Louis.

“Previous studies have only tested happiness with positive experiences versus positive material purchases,” said Irwin, associate professor of marketing at the McCombs School of Business.

“We have studied the effects of negative purchases — ones where the results went poorly.”

Indeed, Irwin said, experiences do lead to more happiness when the purchase goes well.

“However, for negative purchases, bad experiences lead to more lasting unhappiness than do bad material purchases. Experiences ‘stay with’ us longer than material purchases, whether good or bad. They simply have more lasting power over our happiness. Imagine that really terrible play or restaurant meal—it is tougher to recover from picking the wrong experience than from picking the wrong thing.”

So, when considering the perfect romantic gift, it may be best to forgo the risky adventure vacation (with its risk of danger and bad weather) in favor of a safer gift, such as a piece of jewelry.

A bad choice of an experience could make your valentine unhappy for a much longer time than will a badly chosen material gift.

On the other hand, if you have a good reason to suspect that the purchase will turn out well (if it is her favorite restaurant, for instance, or the movie tickets she has been hinting about) then experiences are the way to go and will leave your valentine happier and more appreciative longer than any material gift could.

Source: University of Texas

Is Happiness Tied to Emotions or Material Gifts?

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2015). Is Happiness Tied to Emotions or Material Gifts?. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 17, 2018, from https://psychcentral.com/news/2009/02/12/is-happiness-tied-to-emotions-or-material-gifts/4070.html

 

Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 6 Oct 2015
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 6 Oct 2015
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.