February 9, 2009

Happiness study: Imagine no possessions

Using money to achieve life experiences -- like eating out -- rather than material possessions leads to greater happiness, U.S. researchers found.

Ryan Howell of San Francisco State University said the study demonstrates experiential purchases result in increased well-being because they satisfy higher order needs, specifically the need for social connectedness and vitality -- a feeling of being alive.

These findings support an extension of basic need theory, where purchases that increase psychological need satisfaction will produce the greatest well-being, Howell said in a statement. Purchased experiences provide memory capital -- we don't tend to get bored of happy memories like we do with a material object.

Howell said study participants were asked to write reflections and answer questions about their recent purchases. Participants indicated that experiential purchases represented money better spent and greater happiness for both themselves and others.

The results also indicate that experiences produce more happiness regardless of the amount spent or the income of the consumer, Howell said.

The findings were presented at the Society for Personality and Social Psychology annual meeting in Tampa, Fla.