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Surprising Science

Happiness is in the Wanting, Not the Getting, Says New Study

A new consumer study concludes that the happiness derived from anticipating a new purchase is often greater than the emotional benefits received from the material good itself.

What’s the Latest Development?

A new study out of the University of Missouri suggests that more happiness results from wanting a material good than actually acquiring it. It seems that imagining all the ways a new gizmo will benefit your life brings you more good feelings than does the gizmo itself, and its dubious effect on your satisfaction with life in general. In the study, which evaluated people’s emotional states before and after making purchases, the most avid shoppers “had faith in their upcoming acquisition’s power to improve their relationships, boost their self-esteem, enable them to experience more pleasure, and, of course, be more efficient.”

What’s the Big Idea?

Once purchased, however, material goods tended to lose their bewitching power due to a phenomenon known as ‘hedonic decline’ which explains our tendency to take good things for granted rather quickly. Although “materialists’ perceptions that acquisition brings them happiness appear to have some basis in reality,” that happiness is short-lived, concludes the study. Frequent little happy bumps add up to more happiness than the one big, but short-lived burst of pleasure that accompanies acquisition. As such, “The state of anticipating and desiring a product may be inherently more pleasurable than product ownership itself.”

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Read it at the Atlantic


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